Do You Have Privilege?

Do You Have Privilege?

How to know whether you have privilege, or not.

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

Popular Right Now

Dear White People, It's Time To Recognize Our White Privilege

It's time to create needed equity between races

White faces surrounded me. Walking through the hallways, sitting in class, talking to teachers, looking at my reflection in the mirror; it was an extremely rare day where more than a quarter of the people I encountered weren’t white. Growing up in a community that lacked diversity, there was an immense amount of white privilege.

Surrounded by so many other people of the same skin color, it was easy to disregard the advantages I had because of my race. Growing up, I found that many times I would recognize these privileges were times that I experienced white guilt.

I do not think that I should have felt guilty for being born with white skin; however, I am rightfully guilty of allowing myself to ignore the privilege I have. At a young age, I had trouble grasping the concept of white privilege because my friends who were not white received the same benefits as I did.

We all made the same soccer teams, we all got the same grades on our group projects; I assumed we all had the same advantages. My naïve point of view evolved as I aged and opened myself up to seeing the difficulties limited to the African American experience.

Once I reached an age where race became a noticeable factor in my daily life, I found myself pondering the concept of “white privilege”. Being young and beginning to understand the idea of inequality, I began to see that I had advantages as a white person that black people did not have. I began to notice my white privilege.

White privilege means that life is catered to people who are white. It is advantages you have when you are brought into this world with that will stay with you until you leave it. To my friend Allyson, a black college student, white privilege means “the ability to have safety and security that I will never have because of my skin color”.

Growing up in the same area, Allyson and I both agreed that regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender, there was an equal opportunity in our high school. The differences, however, were manifested in what white students did with their privilege. Over the span of four years we had multiple optional school days dedicated to diversity, and many white students, backed by their parents, chose to not attend despite the chance to further their experience with diversity.

Allyson saw that while white students and black students received almost equal benefits, “it is the reaction to certain opportunities that differentiate amongst white students and students of color”.

Allyson also enlightened me on certain aspects of white privilege that I had trouble recognizing. When going to the store to shop for hair products, there are many aisles available to satisfy hair and body products for white consumers, but a minuscule part dedicated to her needs that fell under “multicultural beauty”. This is a perfect example of how society has been built to cater for white people and further establishes white privilege.

As a white woman in America, my reason to bring up the issue of white privilege is to remind white individuals the importance of taking a step back to recognize how our lives are raised on a pedestal the second we're born. I am not saying that we need to get rid of this privilege, but we need to elevate others to create equity amongst all races. We do not need black convicted felons filling our prisons while white individuals who committed the same crimes receive a “get out of jail free card”.

We do not need black citizens getting shot by police officers because they looked “suspicious”. We do not need this criminal act of racial profiling that is plaguing our society and generations to come.

We demand change. It is long past the time to create this needed equity between races, but it is up to each and every one of us to take the opportunity to be open to a mentality that will allow each of us to contribute to a world that caters to all needs, no matter your skin color.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Feminism Is Not About Equality, Blanket Encouragement, Or White Women

Feminism is about truly supporting all people in the most effective and validating ways.

I hear a lot of misconceptions about feminism from all kinds of people. The more I read about it, the more I learn -- and the more I want to share. Feminism can always improve as new opinions and experiences arise.

First of all, let’s cover the stereotypes and the basics: feminists are not bra-burning, men hating, won’t-take-their-husband’s-last-name, “falsely accusing,” super angry women. We are not saying that men can’t hold the door or buy our dinner. We are not saying women can’t be perpetrators. We aren’t saying all men have it completely easy. We aren’t saying that women MUST get the highest position in her company or that women can’t be stay-at-home moms if they want to.

Women are allowed to be women in the ways that work for them and make them happy. A man being polite, or a man and a woman alternating buying dinner every now and then, is indeed okay. Different variations of feminism exist, and feminism is not what we -- as both men and women -- always think of it.

Feminism is not about equality -- it’s about equity. Equality is treating all people the same, while equity makes sure people have equal opportunities. It levels the playing field when barriers come into play for certain people. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, different experiences, and different levels of privilege that need to be accounted for.

Feminism is supporting other women -- except when it’s not. Feminism is not women blindly supporting all women or using blanket statements. We teach each other because we want the best true support and equity we can provide. We call each other in instead of calling each other out.

For example, some women who are recovering from eating disorders may post before-and-after pictures from their lowest weight to their current, recovered weight. I get why, and I’m proud of their progress, but shining a light on eating disorder recovery can be best served another way. By having that discussion and calling them in, we are being supportive in an effective way.

Before-and-after pictures can imply that people with eating disorders are always skinny. They imply that eating disorder recovery is solely about weight and body image, when it’s a mental disorder with a complex etiology. Before-and-after pictures don't portray recovery in an accurate way: they perpetuate stereotypes and further the idea that if people have eating disorders and need treatment, they must be super thin to get there -- which can be life-threatening, as all eating disorders are serious, regardless of weight.

Many people encounter barriers to treatment, whether that be because of money, insurance problems, or being afraid to go to a doctor because they don’t feel “sick enough.” In this way, feminism means breaking stereotypes and supporting the recovery of women of lower socio-economic status, for example.

I could talk about this for days.

Furthermore, if feminism isn’t intersectional, it’s not true feminism. I’m so over white feminism, and I’m a white woman -- imagine how “over it” people of color feel.

White feminism doesn’t account for transgender women who may have different body parts or can’t live in women’s shelters, and the compounded problems and dangers they encounter because of that. White feminism doesn’t account for the struggles that women who are also of color face. It ignores the fact that Native American women are 250 times more likely to be sexually assaulted.

If I could put numbers in all-capitals, I would.

These problems Native American women face are exacerbated by the stereotype that sexual assault affects only white women. They’re exacerbated by people who wear risque Native American costumes on Halloween that sexualize these women.

White feminism gives credit to white women when it’s supposed to be given to black women. Tarana Burke -- a black woman -- created the #MeToo movement -- and that is hardly ever mentioned.

Intersectional feminism -- the opposite of white feminism -- gives credit where it’s deserved and it looks out for the best interest of all women. It acknowledges the seriousness of not acknowledging feminism when it endangers the lives of people. In addition, intersectional feminism also exists for men.

Intersectional feminism goes against toxic masculinity that says men have to super macho and buff and aren’t “allowed” to cry or enjoy “female sports.” Feminism also supports the whole family as families that include women who are cared for, who carry babies, who contribute to income, and more.

Forms of resistance to feminism fall into a few categories, such as appeals to oneself, to progress, and to authority.

Appeals to oneself -- otherwise known as “Well I don’t assault women!” -- ignores the basic concept that if you aren’t doing something, you aren’t helping, you're hurting. Instead, call in friends who make sexist comments about “a woman’s role” or objectifying comments about a woman’s body. Look out for women at parties who have been drinking -- and don't judge them for doing so.

Appeals to progress -- otherwise known as “But we’ve come so far in history!” -- ignores the fact that we indeed still have problems, such as the safety of women. Yes, we’ve come a long way, but we still have work to do.

Appeals to authority -- otherwise known as “I know better than you!” -- ignores the women who have endured these experiences firsthand. It ignores that each experience is valid.

That’s the point of it all -- feminism welcomes all people. It embraces safety and equity. It calls people in when they could support their passions in a more effective way. It helps create safer situations and benefits all intersections of identities. It’s not white, or ignorant, or angry, or hateful. Feminism is about truly supporting all people in the most effective and validating ways.

Cover Image Credit: Nelly Rodi

Related Content

Facebook Comments