Understanding Your Privilege: How To Recognize It And What To Do With It

Understanding Your Privilege: How To Recognize It And What To Do With It

It's more important than you think.
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Everyone has heard it at least once: “Check your privilege.” This saying tends to get brushed off as soon as it’s spoken, simply because it is just misunderstood. But I think that, instead of brushing it off, we should be giving it the utmost consideration, as it is highly important to understand what privilege is and how to identify it. When you can do this, you will be better able to empathize with and support people who don’t have it.

So what is privilege?

There are several definitions, but the one most pertinent to this situation is, “a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others.” In the case of societal privilege, the benefits aren’t necessarily given out, but rather exist as a result of the conditions a person is born into. It doesn’t take much for a person to be underprivileged, but, as lack of privilege often leads to a seemingly insurmountable mountain of closed doors and limited opportunities, it can be exceedingly difficult to overcome. And while it is true that we all have struggles, the types of challenges and the amount of quality resources available to help combat them differs greatly depending on the amount of privilege each person has.

So how do I know what my privileges are?

Now that you know what privilege is, the next step is to identify what privileges you do and do not have. I am going to ask a series of yes or no questions pertaining to the some of the criteria for privilege in America. (This list is not all encompassing; it is merely a sampling.) The more times you answer “yes,” the more privilege you have. Here we go:

Are you white? Are you male? Are you straight? Do you identify as cisgender? Are you financially stable? Are you an American citizen? Are you Christian? Do you have a college education? Are you physically healthy? Are you mentally able?

So what should I do with the privilege I have?

The first thing you should do is understand that it’s okay to have privilege. You didn’t choose to have privilege any more than the person next to you chose to not have it. Your possession of privilege is simply your lot in life, and you certainly have the right to feel grateful for it. However, it also gives you the opportunity to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and imagine what hoops people have to jump through to be successful if they have to answer “no” to all those questions. It means that they are more looked down on in society and less highly valued as individuals, simply because of their gender, the color of their skin, or their sexual orientation. This is where more privileged people come in. The more privileges you have, the more likely you are to be listened to and taken seriously, so you should use what you have to fight for the rights of the more marginalized, less privileged people. Because after all, more rights for others doesn’t mean fewer rights for you.

This is what it means when you are told to “check your privilege.” You are being told to consider where you fit on the privilege scale in relation to those around you and to care about those who are less fortunate. It is also a call to remember that these privilege hierarchies don’t have to be permanently embedded in the bedrock of society because you have the power to bring in the tide of change.

Cover Image Credit: Global Citizen

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To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.
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Hey,

So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?

Sincerely,

Me

Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

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​'When They See Us' Is The Tough Show Nobody Wants To Watch But Everyone Needs To

Justice was not served.

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Netflix just released a limited series called "When They See Us." The series is based on the Central Park Five. The Central Park Five were five young boys who were convicted of raping a woman jogging in Central Park on April 19, 1989. These young boys did not commit the crime they were convicted of though, they were set up by the prosecutor on the case, Linda Fairstein, along with her fellow detectives.

On April 19, 1989, a huge group of boys went out to Central Park one night "wilding." Cops came and arrested a bunch of the boys who were out. Linda Fairstein came to the scene where the rape happened, with the women attacked hanging on for her life. When Fairstein got to the precinct, immediately she said the boys in the park were the perpetrators. She had the police go out into the neighborhoods and find every young, black/Hispanic male who fit a description they drew up and brought them in for questioning.

What the detectives then did was extremely illegal.

They questioned these 14, 15 and 16-year-old boys without their parents. These boys were minors. These detectives took these boys in the rooms for questioning and started to plot a story in their head, making them say they committed the horrific crime. The boys were saying it wasn't them but the detectives would not let down. They started beating the kids until they "admitted" to this act of rape. One of the boys, Antron McCray, was with his mom and dad when they started to question him. Kevin Richardson was questioned without his mom until his sister came and was basically forced to sign the statement the detectives wrote for him so he could go home.

Yusef Salaam's mother came and got her son just before he signed his Miranda rights away. Raymond Santana was coerced by detectives for hours and hours, along with the others. Korey Wise, who was not in the police's interest at first, was taken and beaten by a detective until he agreed to the story they drew up. These boys didn't even know each other, except Yusef and Korey, and were pinning the crimes on one another because they were forced.

Donald Trump was even supportive of bringing back the death penalty for this case. He wanted the death penalty for five teenage boys. Teenagers. The boys were barely in high school and were being attacked with the death penalty.

At the trial, the lead prosecutor, Elizabeth Lederer, called in the victim of the attack, Trisha Meili. Meili had no recollection of the night after being in a coma for several days. The DNA evidence that was presented at trial did not match any of the defendants. There were no eyewitnesses. They showed the recordings of the interviews of the boys, but they were forced into telling false stories, which none of were merely similar. The case had no supporting evidence whatsoever. But the jury still convicted all five boys, who had to serve out their sentences.

The charges were exonerated in 2002 after the real rapist confessed. But exoneration does not make up for what these young boys had to go through. They were tried as adults at the ages of 14, 15 and 16. Korey Wise was in a maximum security prison at the age of 16. These boys went through something they should have never gone through at such a young age. There was no justice served for the boys or the victim. The detectives pinned a crime on five innocent young boys. These boys had been at the wrong place at the wrong time. Instead of actually working to find the real rapist, Linda Fairstein pinned it on five boys and did not do anything by the book while the boys were in question.

The show has brought back outcries about the case, even causing Linda Fairstein to step down from her charity boards. Our justice system still isn't what it should be today, and this show helps with showing us that.

The Netflix series shines a light on the racism of these detectives and the injustice that was served. Ava DuVernay did a tremendous job with this show. It is moving. The four episodes are very hard to watch, but it is so important that you do.

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