DISCLAIMER: This article is relating to experiences outside of ones I have shared with my friends who are largely white. I understand this is a delicate topic and have tried to approach it with as much love and honesty as possible.
My views are just that and are not made to start a comparison of “who-has-had-it-worse”, to incite pain, hatred or to cause offence.
The word “privilege” never meant much to me until this year.
These last few years, I’ll be honest, I was so wrapped up in myself and boys that I didn’t really realise what was important. Luckily the universe helped me out & got rid of those, what I now would call, trivial distractions and within the last 6 months opened my eyes to what is important to me.
Equality – or rather inequality.
Things were popping up everywhere in my life both in reality and via social media that were just not making sense to me. So I started my journey into researching inequality and decided to focus on (for now) privilege and white privilege.
I didn’t really understand what that meant when I was younger, in my head I swear I never experienced anything like that so I just assumed it was something that happened to everyone else. I guess I was innocent and very very naive. It was only after I learnt what the phrase meant and after some deeply troubling conversations with other WOCs (women of colour) and some reflections on past experiences did I truly understand what white privilege meant and how I had become affected by it. (I know there are many different types of privilege but I am just referring to this one at this moment in time as it’s been the one I have (and my family members) experienced the most of)
White privilege refers to the collection of benefits that white people receive in a racially structured society in which they are at the top of the racial hierarchy. This term was made famous by scholar and activist Peggy McIntosh in 1988.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and write an article about how I was affected by white privilege whilst growing up. I think there are enough articles & studies out there that have shown the prevalence of it and it’s effects on others.
I am actually writing this because through learning about white privilege, I have learnt that there are other privileges too and I have some of them.
Yes, I am a woman of colour, therefore I have been subject to prejudice, racial biases and discrimination. I also have a mental health diagnosis consequently I have been discriminated against because my illness makes me seen like an untrustworthy, dramatic source for the truth. I am also bisexual making me an easy target for being pigeonholed into certain ideologies pertaining to my sexual preference. However, there are places where I am privileged and I want to put them down in black and white so to help myself learn more about how those who aren’t in my situation feel and to make sure I never speak on behalf of those who’s experience I know nothing about.
Where am I privileged?
⁃ I am educated consequently I wouldn’t understand the plight of WOC who are less educated than I am. I wouldn’t understand how difficult it would be for them to achieve even basic employment or be taken seriously in the world of work. I wouldn’t understand the feelings they may feel when not being able to understand and/or speak the language of the majority.
⁃ I am middle class consequently I wouldn’t understand the plight of WOC who are from a poorer backgrounds than me. I wouldn’t understand the sacrifices they have had to make in order to have their basic needs such as food and shelter met, nor would I understand the discrimination they felt for being less financially secure and able than others.
– I also feel that there is a privilege I have where I am British born, living in my native country. Consequently, I couldn’t begin to understand the feelings non-natives in this country have and the difficulties they may face such as prejudices.
⁃ I am cisgendered consequently I wouldn’t understand the plight of WOC who are transgender or non-binary. I wouldn’t understand the difficulties they face when their human rights are dismissed. I wouldn’t understand what it is like to not be able to live their most authentic life without fear of ridicule or abuse.
Because I am privileged in these three areas (at least – I am most likely to be privileged in more areas such as being considered young) I am not in the position to assume I know what WOC who don’t fit these specifications went through and are continuing to go through. I cannot speak on behalf of them and I cannot assume to know what it is they need in order to feel equal.
I need to learn from them what it is they need in order to feel heard and gain the necessary rights they deserve. Only by learning this I can become empathetic to their struggle and work towards helping them as well as myself.
I think by recognising where our privileges lie we take the first step towards trying to make society a more inclusive and harmonious place.
So why not be brave & first admit you have privileges. Then take it one step further and ask yourself the extremely hard question: “What are MY privileges?”
N:B – the inspiration behind this article is from the book: The Guilty Feminist by Deborah Frances-White