Yesterday I saw on Facebook where Ijeoma Oluo challenged people to list their privileges as an exercise to start out the new year. I was really moved by this but I didn’t list mine right away. I wanted to really think about the privileges that I have in this life. So many. Countless. Way more than I’ll ever be aware of, truly. I wanted to take part. It’s a great way to lead by example and this is something I think we should all do.
“Privilege” is one of those words that creates a lot of immediate feelings. It’s really easy to get defensive. It’s really easy to rest on an outdated idea. You do not have to own your own private island in order to be considered privileged and you do not need to apologize for your privileges. No, honestly, we should be using them. They’re invisibility cloaks that can get us into spaces where anyone else wouldn’t blend in so well or could all together be rejected at the gate.
Privileges are the things that help us to move through this life with a little bit more ease. That doesn’t mean life is easy for you just because you’re privileged. Life is hard for all of us in so many different ways but our privileges are the areas where we struggle less than someone else. That’s fair, right? I’m drowning in privilege. I’m here to admit that.
There are also a lot of privileges that I don’t have. I’m a female in a fat body. A member of the lgbtq+ community with a low-ish income, high student loans and an invisible chronic illness–for example.
I don’t point those out because I necessarily feel like those things warrant special treatment or anything. But I do think that other people who don’t have privileges that you or I might have deserve a little extra space in those areas.
I am wondering if there are people out there who need more explanation about why those things make life a little bit harder to be heard and to move through the world or why the things on my privilege list belong there. If so, let me know. I’m happy to write more about that.
I’m college educated,
and married to a partner who has a stable job.
I have access to educational resources at my fingertips.
I’m a natural born citizen in the country where I live,
and I was raised Christian.
I’m surrounded by powerful feminist allies.
I have access to shelter and all of my immediate domestic needs.
I have a relative sense of safety in the world
and a complete sense of safety in my home.
Some of the things on this list are things that I just happened upon in my life. Other things I worked for–my education, for example, but there were a lot of things that worked together to get me to college. Trust me, I didn’t try that hard to get there. I didn’t even know how to try hard at the time. As Ijeoma Oluo pointed out in her original post, “not one is due 100% to my efforts and none of them deserve all of the advantages that they receive over people without these things.”
I think that the power in listing these things lies in the ways that once we recognize them–we can then begin to see the privileges that others do not have. And in that way–we can use our powers for good. Infiltrate these spaces where others are not welcome and bring them along if we can. If someone hands you a mic, go on ahead and pass it along to someone less represented than yourself if you know they have something important to say. Vote in ways that lift these people up. This is how we all get on the same playing field.
What’s on your list? You can leave it in the comments or in our private Facebook group.