Welcome to America! Please answer the following questions to determine your level of privilege. Race? Gender? Sexuality? Economic status? Education of your great-great-great grandparents? Make sure you answer correctly because this will be what determines if and how long you live in this country. Also, if your results are undesirable and you end up as one of America’s millions of disadvantaged, you can never mention the fact that you are disadvantaged because you will promptly be attacked by all advantaged members of society.
Privilege has recently become one of the most important topics of conversation in America lately, and mostly it is because so many *cough* privileged Americans have no idea what their privilege even entails. So, here I am, a heterosexual, middle-class, white, privileged American woman, to explain to others what privilege can and does mean in America today.
Privilege is never wondering whether or not your race, sexual orientation or gender will negatively affect how you are treated. Since I am a white woman, who attends a private university and dresses (at least I like to think) semi-fashionably, it is assumed that I come from a wealthy family with highly-educated parents. Because of this, I will never have an employer take a second look at my qualifications, or get a side-eye from a shop clerk. I am not, in fact, from a wealthy family with highly-educated parents, but it is privilege that those things are what is assumed about me.
Privilege is also not knowing what privilege is because you have never experienced anything less. It’s not having to know the story of every gay, black, poor, or disadvantaged person who has been attacked (verbally or physically), or died. Privilege is not having to know those stories because you will never have to worry if you will end up as one of them. When you have privilege, you never have to worry that hard work just won’t be enough. You get to live the American dream, thinking that even if you start at the bottom, you have a chance to get to the top, and things that you have no control over, like the color of your skin or who you love, will not keep you from that.
Privilege takes many forms in American society today, and has since the beginning of our history. The important thing is to recognize that privilege exists, and it is so deeply ingrained in us that we are blind to how much it tears us apart. We cannot be blind to the disadvantages that we as a society allow and continue to talk about unimportant things, like which celebrities are dating. We also cannot just talk about privilege and then not do anything to fix it. Privilege needs to be addressed, not only by the ones that don’t have it, but more importantly by those that do. It’s not a crime to be privileged, it is however, a crime to pretend that you aren’t. We can come together, address the gaps that we allow to grow between us and do our best to tear down the tower of privilege that is blocking out our bright future as a truly united nation.