Recognizing Privilege

I found this little graphic from a friend on social media. I hope to find out who originally made it so I can credit them. I’ve seen a lot of people share it. It speaks some truths to me. It feels like it needs some reflection. I was alreadythinking about posting some small thoughts on the privilege that I experience when I saw it sitting in my feed.

The fact is, I was dramatically disadvantaged in parts of my young life. Far from an ideal upbringing. We saw periods of devastating poverty. Though there were moments of fun and joy, there were also moments one may consider mental, physical, or emotional abuse. Basically, things that psychologists today call “adverse childhood experiences.” Nothing about that felt very privileged. Yet, I’m still given privileges because of the color of my skin.

Someone with Black skin is far less likely to come from similar circumstances as mine and manage to graduate college, secure stable income, and achieve what we call the American Dream. It has nothing to do with their skills or abilities. In thousands of tiny interactions, I’ve never had to overcome implicit biases to convince someone that I was trustworthy, honest, fair, safe, friendly, or positive. People just assumed I was intelligent and capable even when I gave strong compelling evidence otherwise. Did I just manage to garner the benefit of the doubt? Do I just exude trustworthiness? No, I exude whiteness. So, if the word “privilege” makes you feel icky inside as a white person, think of recognizing the unearned “benefit of the doubt” you receive. Good first step.

Having had this privilege doesn’t make me a bad person. I didn’t ask for this privilege, I did nothing to earn it. But not taking a few minutes out of my day to recognize that privilege and attempt to help people understand their own privilege would make me a little lesser. So, there it is. I am privileged in ways I didn’t earn.

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