Privilege is not something you can get rid of.

Mauro Sifuentes September 30, 2013 0
Privilege is not something you can get rid of.

Privilege is not something you can get rid of. It is something to refuse in moments, to use strategically in others, and to reflect on constantly. If you speak English, are clearly gendered, male, born in the US, raised middle/upper-middle class, Christian/secular Christian, an adult, able-bodied, college educated, heterosexual, or white, you embody forms of privilege. I am personally implicated by many of these categories to increase my awareness.

1380497_10101835102456795_1668111639_nI think a lot of people talk about “getting rid of privilege” largely by pretending it isn’t there. In my experience, unearned privilege is something you can’t get rid of because the rest of the world will continue to respond to you the ways they’ve been socialized to. So, given that, what do we use our voices for? As a practical example, I know that I can speak, read, and write in English with pretty decent facility. I try to use these capacities to point out different issues that might otherwise not get any attention. Additionally, I try to reflect on the ways I get by easily and find ways to refuse ease of motion in moments, especially as it can inhibit the movement of others. If I see someone who needs help, or if someone is using crutches or a wheelchair, even if it means my day gets slowed down a bit because I’m moving out of the way or waiting (which is a particularly strong dynamic in San Francisco, where everyone is so impatient that they just bulldoze right past or over disabled folks), I try to pay close attention to my surroundings and see what I can do to help others move through their day with the tiniest bit more ease. And, not because I want to be a good person, but because it makes one tiny moment in another person’s life that much easier.

It’s not much, but it’s also not nothing. Privilege flows through us whether or not we admit to it; how can our increased awareness put that privilege to good use?

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