The most common question I hear, surrounding privilege is "what is it?" That's a very valid question. One, that often stems from a stigma that surrounds the word "privilege." When I was first introduced to the term, it was something I was ashamed of and tried to distance myself from. I would defend myself with statements like "I pay for my own expenses," "my parents don't just do everything for me," or "there's no way I'M privileged when that girl's parents just bought her a Mercedes — I'm just as underprivileged as anyone else!" It took me a long time to come to terms with, and accept my privilege so that I could realize it doesn't have to be a bad thing.
So...that still doesn't answer the question: what is it?! Well, Google defines it as "a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group." I, see it more as luck — like, man, I'm lucky that when I get pulled over by a cop my biggest worry is how much my speeding ticket will be and not if the cop may mistake my phone for a gun. I'm LUCKY that I could choose to ignore the issues and struggles of the transgender community if I wanted to because I was born as the sex and gender I'm happy with.
Privilege, to me, is all the things I never have to think of worry about because a specific category I was born into protects me from that. Privilege comes in all different shapes, sizes, and groups. It is the male privilege to not have to worry about walking home alone at night, or getting too drunk at a party, or being blamed for wearing inappropriate clothes to the extent that women have to. It is that privilege that allows them to not care when our president has a history of sexual assault — most women are not so lucky.
I am privileged because I am white, straight, cis-gender, native English speaker, financially stable, come from an educated family, and for many other reasons. Take a minute right now, and think to yourself: what gives you privilege? What does that privilege allow you to do?
Most importantly, what are you doing to DO with that privilege?
So you've made it past step one: realizing your privilege. Pat yourself on the back because part of what makes this such a complex issue is that your privilege means you could go your whole life without realizing how it benefits you — if you're not exposed to people unlike yourself.
What's next? Step 2: Using that privilege for good! Privilege is power. It means people listen to you, you fit the status quo and you're not marginalized in at least one way. So use your power and platform to speak for those that are aren't as lucky! One example of this lately that you may have stumbled upon was Kim Kardashian and the Cyntoia Brown case. Kim took to social media to ask for Cyntoia Brown, a victim of institutional racism in the justice system, to be pardoned. Kim's voice gave the issue saliency and the instagrammers and tweeters of the world began to demand change too.
Obviously, not everyone has the same power and influence Kim K. does. What you do have, however, is the opportunity to stand up for others in every way that you can. Use your voice and privilege to amplify other people and groups' voices and struggles. A little goes a long way, but I truly believe that change starts with me and you. Embrace your privilege and harness your power so that together, we can change the world!