What Can I do About Privilege?

First of all, you can’t choose to give up privilege – privilege is by definition an unearned advantage and you cannot choose to not have it. Guilt and shame are not, however, productive ways to deal with this.

Privilege maintains itself through silence and denial. So while you cannot get rid of your privilege, you can acknowledge it. When we force privilege into view and discuss it openly we engage in solidarity with those who do not share in certain privileges with us.

  1. When engaging with the media, keep in mind that privilege exists and it is real. See if you can identify it while watching television, listening to the news, or playing video games.
  2. Point out instances in which members of groups other than your own are being hampered by their exclusion from privilege. Help to educate others around you about the operation of privilege in the media.
  3. Don’t be afraid to make a statement, write a letter, post a blog, get into a discussion, or create dialogue and criticism in some way to comment on instances of privilege in the media.
  4. If you benefit from privilege of any kind, you will undoubtedly someday be addressed about it. Acknowledge your privilege when it is pointed out to you and take that opportunity to learn something new about privilege.
  5. Privilege will never go away until the systems in our society that cause discrimination go away. In your own daily life, work to make those systems visible and call them into question when you can so that someday we all enjoy the benefits of being on equal footing with each other.

Further reading:

For more information on privilege from a social justice standpoint see some of the following organizations:

Wellesley Centers for Women

Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois

Harvard MIT School of Architecture and Planning diversity resources, Identifying privilege checklists

Project Implicit – An online assessment tool for exploring conscious and unconscious preferences.