Do You Have Privilege?

Do You Have Privilege?

How to know whether you have privilege, or not.
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I didn’t understand what privilege was for a long time. What rights did they have that we did not? Was it easier for Caucasians and straight males to get jobs, to attain and economic mobility? How did I even know if I had privilege?

It’s a difficult concept to understand, and it is not one that we can fully grasp quickly. I truly only begun to understood its magnitude after reading Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies, when she described white privilege as “an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, assurances, tools, maps, guides, codebooks, passports, visas, clothes, compass, emergency gear and blank checks.

Invisible. Weightless.

Those with privilege are blind to it, unaware that their knapsacks are fitted snugly on their shoulders. They assume that everyone carries the same backpack, equipped with the tools and provisions necessary to survive and navigate the world.

Now, what are the literal manifestations of these metaphorical compasses and maps? How do they present themselves in our day-to-day lives?

Privilege is being able to walk into the nearest Walgreens and buy a Band-Aid in your skin color.

Privilege means you can flip on the television and easily find a program with a person of your race as the main character.

Privilege is being able to shop, undisturbed, in a grocery store without having someone constantly ask you if you need help because they think you’re stealing.

Privilege is not constantly, uncannily being the victim of a “random search” at the airport each time you travel.

Privilege means you are not worried about your actions and decisions reflecting on your race, as a whole.

Privilege is feeling comfortable keeping your hood on at night, without fear of being seen as a thug or criminal.

Privilege is not panicking when a police officer approaches you when you haven’t done anything wrong.

Privilege means when you get accepted to college or get a job, your success will not be attributed to “Affirmative Action” instead of your academic merit.

It means you can leave and enter this country at ease, without having to worry about a policy or ban affecting your ability to return home. It means you can walk into a hospital and feel assured that you will be treated with proper respect. It means you can hold hands with the person you love in public, without fear of becoming victim to slurs. It means you have never had your race compared to animals, like apes or monkeys.

It is far more simple to stay blind to your privilege, to ignore it, to let the knapsack stay invisible. However, it requires a great deal of self-awareness and candidness to let yourself feel the straps of the backpack digging into your shoulders, to thank your good fortune that you were born with it.

I am not privileged. As an Indian-American woman, I was subject to harmful stereotypes. I was told that I could never be as intelligent or successful as a man. I was told that Indian-American women should aspire to be wives and mothers, not engineers. I was told that girls could not like sports, that Indians are dirty and smell like curry, that Hinduism wasn’t even a real religion, that people of my race were stealing all the American jobs, that Indians were only capable of buying local 7/11s and Dairy Queens.

My race was judged by the television characters of Baljeet in Phineas and Ferb, Raj in The Big Bang Theory, and Ravi in Jesse. Each one of these characters had an embarrassingly inaccurate, thick accent and a flat personality. They were socially inept and scientifically inclined, and I only recently realized how much more representation my, and all other non-white races, need.

Where are the female Indian basketball players, lawyers, and activists in television? Why are the only Indian characters in television manifestations of insulting stereotypes?

I am not privileged because it’s pretty hard to find Band-Aids that match my skin color. I am not privileged because I take extra care to deodorize and wear perfume because I don’t want people thinking that Indians are smelly. I am not privileged because I like talking on the phone because the person on the other end can’t see my skin; I don't have an accent, so I sound like a white person, and I’m treated as such.

That being said, I am privileged.

I experience the benefits of middle-class, heterosexual, cis privilege. I have never worried about not having food on the table, about discussing my romantic interests with my friends, about filling out my gender on surveys, about being able to afford to attend university, to buy a new winter coat. I did not have to be concerned about gang violence in my neighborhood. I did not have to drop out of school to have a job to support my family. I was blessed with a supportive community and above all, a supportive family, who assured that I had a comfortable, shielded upbringing. They told me I could be anything, do anything, regardless of my economic situation, my race, or my sex.

I never stressed about having my hood on at night, being followed in a grocery store, or of unjustly losing my life to the hands of the police.

I am privileged, I am not privileged. I can only beg you to ask yourself the same question,

Are you privileged?

Cover Image Credit: Heavy

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'As A Woman,' I Don't Need To Fit Your Preconceived Political Assumptions About Women

I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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It is quite possible to say that the United States has never seen such a time of divisiveness, partisanship, and extreme animosity of those on different sides of the political spectrum. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are saturated with posts of political opinions and are matched with comments that express not only disagreement but too often, words of hatred. Many who cannot understand others' political beliefs rarely even respect them.

As a female, Republican, college student, I feel I receive the most confusion from others regarding my political opinions. Whenever I post or write something supporting a conservative or expressing my right-leaning beliefs and I see a comment has been left, I almost always know what words their comment will begin with. Or in conversation, if I make my beliefs known and someone begins to respond, I can practically hear the words before they leave their mouth.

"As a woman…"

This initial phrase is often followed by a question, generally surrounding how I could publicly support a Republican candidate or maintain conservative beliefs. "As a woman, how can you support Donald Trump?" or "As a woman, how can you support pro-life policies?" and, my personal favorite, "As a woman, how did you not want Hillary for president?"

Although I understand their sentiment, I cannot respect it. Yes, being a woman is a part of who I am, but it in no way determines who I am. My sex has not and will not adjudicate my goals, my passions, or my work. It will not influence the way in which I think or the way in which I express those thoughts. Further, your mention of my sex as the primary logic for condemning such expressions will not change my adherence to defending what I share. Nor should it.

To conduct your questioning of my politics by inferring that my sex should influence my ideology is not only offensive, it's sexist.

It disregards my other qualifications and renders them worthless. It disregards my work as a student of political science. It disregards my hours of research dedicated to writing about politics. It disregards my creativity as an author and my knowledge of the subjects I choose to discuss. It disregards the fundamental human right I possess to form my own opinion and my Constitutional right to express that opinion freely with others. And most notably, it disregards that I am an individual. An individual capable of forming my own opinions and being brave enough to share those with the world at the risk of receiving backlash and criticism. All I ask is for respect of that bravery and respect for my qualifications.

Words are powerful. They can be used to inspire, unite, and revolutionize. Yet, they can be abused, and too comfortably are. Opening a dialogue of political debate by confining me to my gender restricts the productivity of that debate from the start. Those simple but potent words overlook my identity and label me as a stereotype destined to fit into a mold. They indicate that in our debate, you cannot look past my sex. That you will not be receptive to what I have to say if it doesn't fit into what I should be saying, "as a woman."

That is the issue with politics today. The media and our politicians, those who are meant to encourage and protect democracy, divide us into these stereotypes. We are too often told that because we are female, because we are young adults, because we are a minority, because we are middle-aged males without college degrees, that we are meant to vote and to feel one way, and any other way is misguided. Before a conversation has begun, we are divided against our will. Too many of us fail to inform ourselves of the issues and construct opinions that are entirely our own, unencumbered by what the mainstream tells us we are meant to believe.

We, as a people, have become limited to these classifications. Are we not more than a demographic?

As a student of political science, seeking to enter a workforce dominated by men, yes, I am a woman, but foremost I am a scholar, I am a leader, and I am autonomous. I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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My White Privilege Vs. My Friend's Black Oppression

WE NEED TO USE OUR VOICE AND TAKE A STAND!

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Now, I know many of you are going to read this article and scoff at the term "white privilege." Well, let me just be blunt and say that you are an ignorant person that needs to wake up and see the world for what it truly is. It is not all rainbows and butterflies for everyone out there because not everyone in this world is given the same opportunities and the same treatment as us.

When I say "us," I am referring to white people and yes, I am including myself.

I am going to get real and for you ignorant people, if you do not get the message after this, then I feel sorry for you and I will pray that one day your stupidity is swallowed by the truth: white privilege, racism and oppression is REAL.

Breyonna Miller is a 21-year-old African American female that attends the College of Charleston with me. I, Lyric Richardson, am a 21-year-old white female. We are both majoring in special education and plan to graduate in the spring of 2019. Our dreams consist of teaching in our own classrooms and helping children with disabilities work towards independence.

We have a ton in common with each other, but our lives are so different just because of our skin color. This is evident with just a few experiences between us being compared.

1. Interactions With Law Enforcement

I was pulled over once for speeding. I was pretty mad about getting pulled over because I really did not think that I had been speeding. Naturally, I got quite an attitude with the officer. I even threw my license and registration at him when he asked for it. In the end, I received a ticket that was dropped in court when I chose to appeal it.

Breyonna and some of her friends were leaving a party two summers ago when she was pulled over. Her car was suspected to be the car of people who were shooting guns in a parking lot. The girls in the car were dressed exactly as you would think girls coming from a party would be dressed. It was clear they were not the people who had been shooting up a parking lot. However, the police refused to allow Breyonna to say a word in defending herself. Instead, they held the girls at gun point and told them to "keep their f***ing hands up before they shoot."

After Breyonna and her friends were forced to sit there and fear for their lives, the police told them to leave after discovering the girls were not who they were looking for. Breyonna drove away with no apology from the officers, and an emotional and mental scar permanently etched into her life.

2. The Educational System

I soared through school with high grades and all the support I could possibly get from elementary school all the way to high school. My teachers constantly reminded how successful I would be in my future. My high school guidance counselor spoke with me once a month to make sure I was applying for college and thriving in my academics.

All in all, I was put on a track that set me up to be successful. To top it off, I was encouraged to apply for all types of scholarships to help me pay for a college education. I was also rewarded these scholarships and three years later, I am still receiving them.

Breyonna was considered the "token black child." Yes, she was placed in classes that were considered honors and even though she deserved to be there, the teachers did not see it that way. In the teacher's eyes, they now had to "accommodate" for this black child that was placed in the classroom because the school needed some way to show that there is diversity among the academic achievers.

Breyonna was motivated enough that she pushed through and fought her way to college. Like most students, she needed some financial assistance. Breyonna applied for ROAR in which she would receive a grant to help her continue pursuing a degree. However, the College chose to discontinue this program, so Breyonna was forced to make up the difference by pulling out of her own pocket.

3. Blunt Oppression and Racism

I can honestly say that no one has ever truly insulted me based on my skin color, age, gender, intelligence, or any other aspect of my life that hurt me. Every now and then I hear a blonde joke or my male friends try to intimidate me in sports. However, none of these things cut me so deep that I could not recover.

In contrast, Breyonna has been left speechless at some words that have been thrown at her. She works in a fine dining restaurant which can be automatically associated with wealthy white people. She once had customers tell her to clear their table "like the servant she is." We all are raised and taught to defend ourselves when such hurtful things are said to us, but when someone says something so blunt and casually like that, you are left with no words to defend yourself with.

This is the sad world we live in today and the unfortunate news is that this type of hatred and oppression is not going anywhere anytime soon.

We cannot force people to change their hearts that are full of hate, but we can certainly educate them on the matter. I know this article will not change how some people see the world and it will not make them want to be a better person, but my hope is that for those of you it did reach, do something about it

Actions speak louder than words.

Do not just apologize for being unaware of white privilege. Do not just recognize that racism and oppression exist. Be aware, use your voice, and take a stand!

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