Do you have a privilege?

We are not talking about a new virus, a new sickness, with the literal meaning of the word. Although, this exists among us since the beginning of the organized societies. We can find it in the house, the work, even in a public space and it affects our life in a way we would never believe.

Do you have a privilege?

A short (and honest of course) answer is “yes”. And if that makes you feel wronged, furious or mad, then this article is ideal for you to read.

The privilege appears in any aspect of life and derives from a characteristic that gives the person the feeling of superiority in relation to people who do not have it. The superiority of the position is expressed in at least one aspect of social and personal life, only because the person possesses this characteristic without having given any effort to gain it.

At the same time the biggest trap of the privilege is that whoever has it, almost never recognizes it, either because that person does not realize or simply does not accept it.

For example, a White American who believes that race does not play any role in finding a job,  because of course he never had to face that (i.e. the discrimination), he has this privilege against his African American competitors for the job position.

According to surveys, the majority of white Americans believe that their African American colleagues are not subject to discriminatory behaviors in the workplace nowadays. 

In this case the expression of the privilege is dual: 

On the one hand, white men are not subject to discrimination based on the color and on the other hand they do not realize there is a general problem.

“But who says that there is no other reason for a White American to be discriminated?”

The existence of a privilege does not preclude the existence of another and vice versa. For example, a white homosexual American might suffer discrimination in not being hired in a job, even though he has all the assets, just because of his sexual orientation.

The difference between the two facts is that the employer’s choice was influenced by the color of the applicant, which is still a privilege, not only in this but also in other cases.

“Maybe I have one privilege, maybe two, so what?

The fact that you have one privilege does not necessarily mean that you have an easy life or it is your fault that other members of the society are being discriminated. But simply your life is not getting more difficult because of this characteristic. More specifically a white person might face numerous difficulties and his life might be an endless struggle. That might not based on his color only. On the contrary, an African American in the exact same position (social, financial etc.) as the white American, is more likely to face difficulties. And that because of his color, a passive-aggressive racist comment from a colleague up until the targeting from the police or judicial authorities.

Another example: if you are a cis-male in Greece nowadays, then most probably you have a gender privilege. Not because you do not face difficulties or because your rights do not count, but simply because you were born male.

Before you even feel triggered, only think that the matter might not concern yourself.

Have you ever thought that your trousers are too short to walk alone outside? Have you ever been scared to walk in front of a group of women having known the comments you might hear (the best case scenario)?

This is your privilege, being able to do simple, daily things without being afraid of direct and indirect physical or psychological consequences, that derive exclusively from your gender, without having done something bad to deserve such a behavior (even if you have done, you would not have deserved it).

“But why should I recognize that privilege? I am neither racist nor sexist, not even something similar.”

Only when you recognize the existence of a problem and especially that you are a part of it, only then you would be able to contribute for its resolution.

We can overcome this problem with dialogue, with the dispute sometimes, by changing a point of view, which you have considered as correct for years without having seen the other side of the coin.

When for example you participate in a discussion and you get furious (or even worse you are being sarcastic and mock the topic) trying to prove that there is no sexism anymore, that women have equal opportunities and so on, give yourself a minute and think: have I ever faced something like that? Have I ever been in this position? Is there a danger for me to end up in this position due to my gender? If the answer is no, then you know where to focus your attention. A fact that for you is just a discussion and two minutes after you would be back in normal life, for your interlocutor it is her daily life, trying to convince you not about points of view and theories, but for the fact that the topic includes a human value, dignity, essential and fundamental rights. 

For you that might be a short discussion, but for her it is her whole life, from her birth till her death.

Isn’t this a privilege?

Written by Penny Sarakenidou

Translated by Dimitris Nikolaidis