This is a terrible topic to touch, but I will explain my understanding of what privilege is and what it is not.
It isn’t that rich, attractive, light-skinned, Christian men are too “clueless” or not “intelligent” enough to understand the concept of privilege. But the way the media has twisted it, privilege has become a buzzword that ignites the indignation of the very people ensconced at the top of the hierarchy.
Privilege is not a moral failing and it certainly isn’t exclusive to Caucasian men. The wealthy have privilege over the poor. Light-skinned people have privilege over dark-skinned people. Men have privilege over women in almost every country in this world. The righteous have privilege over the morally deficient. The beautiful, whatever society deems attractive at the time, have privilege over the plain.
Privilege is a social construct. It is conferred to and received by those named deserving of such treatment. If the practice goes on long enough, say for centuries, the privilege given becomes entitlement.
Entitlement in this context denotes any treatment that one has come to expect. Expectations are assumptions and to assume makes an “ass” our of “u” and “me.”
If you assume someone will be a certain way, if society demands that a woman behave a certain way, that is the point of reference from which you operate. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not.
When I use the word privilege, it is not to chastise an individual. I only want to make the individual conscious of the “super-power” possessed. How you use this super-power determines the person you are, not the actual treatment you receive.
Society’s behavior toward a “beautiful” person is markedly different from that of the “plain” person. After meeting a few of these genetic-jackpot-creatures, and I think a majority of us would agree, you discover that they are vain, demanding, and rely almost exclusively on their appearance to command admiration and what they feel is theirs by right.
Fat-shaming is another example. Since slenderness is a societally desirable state of being, everything to do with fashion, to do with body image, how one eats, and even one’s perceived state of health is assumed by society.
Here is a totem pole of privilege in America:
• Color of skin
• Gender identification
• Religious affiliations
Others have different opinions as to the order, but from observation and study, this is my statement of the hierarchy and only in America and only by the majority of Americans. For those rare birds who refuse to adopt these societal norms and struggle daily to challenge their assumptions, I salute you.
The distinctions above represent our subconscious assumptions. To the individual with privilege, the treatment received from others is equivalent to a fish swimming in an ocean. Immersed in the water, acknowledgement of the sky and earth exist is not required or desired. Arguments would ensue should a dolphin come along and describe the sky.
This is why America is in turmoil over so many issues. Like the teenager our country is, compared to other countries in the world, we wish to prove that we are right in our assumptions. Belligerence is a normal side-effect of having assumptions challenged. Hopefully, recent setbacks will mature the American perspective and the election of the current Administration is the last gasp of the beached fish of our country’s sense of entitlement. My hope is endless.
For those who rest at the pyramid’s point, you have a responsibility to acknowledge your good fortune and use it for the betterment of those who have, by no fault of their own, been relegated to a supporting level of the pinnacle. Failing to do so will create a chaos that grows exponentially as the established order attempts to keep the “lid on the boiling pot.”
When a class of individuals loses sight of the fact that their privilege rests on the backs of the others who have helped them to rise to such heights, resentment simmers beneath and at some point, the pyramid will erupt like a volcano.
The eruption could be Pompeii or it could be *** in proportion. This pattern has been witnessed over the course of human history, reflected in the cycles of the Earth, and also experienced on the personal level many times over.
Must change be so violent? If an abuse is named in the current order of assumptions, wouldn’t it be easier to integrate the awareness with deliberate and mindful steps that are implemented with kindness and respect? And for those who have named these abuses, wouldn’t it be prudent to start with a respectful and informative approach rather than accusations that, while valid, would alienate the participation of those who have the power to initiate change?
In theory, yes, that would be marvelous and the ideas of mindfulness and deliberation are worthy of consideration and constructive discussion.
I am not promoting a revolution of any sort because I am not interested in holding power over others. I have the privilege to be in a place where I can make that decision for myself. Others are not so lucky, but I will not use my privilege as a weapon against others.
I will harness my privilege so that I’m not an asshole to the waiter or ignoring the suffering of others. I will use my privilege to help others become.