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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Unpacking My Backpack of Privileges

I want to talk about "privilege." One of my colleagues posted an article that made me think about the word "privilege." What it is to some may not be to others. In our daily walk with individuals, it is important to realize the effect of privilege. This is a short clip on an Introduction to White Privilege. Using myself as an example, my privileges are:

  • I'm white and heterosexual
  • I'm a citizen of the U.S. so I can obtain legal documents
  • I'm surrounded by people of my race
  • I have access to good food, water and housing
  • English is my language, so communication is not an issue
  • I have access to education which is steeped in U.S. history and the English language
Now, think about yourself. Make a list of what makes you privileged or non-privileged. Consider race, citizenship, gender, class, sex, ability, and sexual orientation. There is an article by Peggy McIntosh White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack that may cause you to think about the longevity of daily privilege not only for you but others around you.

Why is this so important? Social justice is about caring for humanity that extends beyond our noses. Obviously, if I was a straight white middle class able-bodied male, I wouldn't have a care in the world. However, let's think about others and how they experience white privilege. In the YouTube clip Cracking the Code: Joy DeGruy "A Trip to the Grocery Store , Joy describes how she experiences white privilege and how to question injustice.
The person sitting next to you in class may have to work twice as hard to overcome those boundaries or maybe not have to work at all. One of my favorite YouTube channels ModPrimate explains how white privilege is systemic within our society. Black History Month for White People. When we are tempted to make racist, sexist, classist, or ableist, remarks, stop and wonder if you are taking advantage of your privilege to have power over others? This unearned privilege because of whiteness is also used as an excuse to ignore those who experience white privilege negatively. "After all, it isn't my problem! Right?" Oh, you are so wrong. We are not all equal therefore we don't all have the same equity or fairness of equal outcomes.

To impact social justice and change social systems, we need to keep considering equality and equity. My professor used an analogy in class whereby everyone took their shoes off (say education) and she distributed 2 shoes to everyone with different sizes, and shapes but not all shoes were able to serve their purpose. We are all offered free public education, but like the shoes, it doesn't work for well for everyone. We are not all square pegs to be put in square holes. You can use this analogy for several institutions in life where society has dictated that we all have the same opportunities in life, yet some people choose to not take advantage of those opportunities. This statement is untrue and misleading. In fact, if we unpack our backpack of privilege, we will see that some of us have a few more unearned tools that help us in comparison to others.

The next time you hear racist, sexist, or classist remarks, remember that not all backpacks are the same. Some people work twice as hard as others to obtain an education or a job. Then raise consciousness and educate society about debunking the myth of "equality for all!" 

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