1. a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.
I, like anyone, can only know what is normal for me. I have not lived in anyone else’s shoes, and can, at best, glean bits and pieces of their experience of the world through personal, news and fictional stories. In reading countless news stories about Ferguson, MO it occurred to me why we, as a society, have such an issue with the word “privilege.”
Privilege, by definition, sounds like special treatment. I think that’s why it’s so prickly for people who are told they are privileged. It sounds like the world has simply been handed to them on a platter, free of any struggle or strife. But that is not the case. And no one is saying it is.
The trouble with framing privilege as an accusation is that it overlooks the real problem. Everyone in our country (and preferably, world) should experience a daily norm in which they are, at minimum, given basic human dignity and respect. That version of normal should be the baseline for our society as a whole, not a select few. And those for whom it is, pay attention to what is happening in Ferguson and appreciate that what you experience as normal, is not reality for everyone. Not being treated like a terrorist on the other side of a war, is in fact, a privilege.
As a woman, I am intimately acquainted with the sinister elements of misogyny and patriarchal rule, knowing too well the frustration of trying to explain inherent unfairness of a system intent on objectifying and dehumanizing me to men, who, according to their very different experience of the world, simply cannot understand what I’m talking about. They don’t think of being able to walk to their car late at night unmolested as privilege. They don’t think that not being harassed or catcalled is extraordinary. They don’t smile through heinously sexist come-ons, choosing pacification over provocation of potential violence. Their experience of normal isn’t the same. And though I’d love for their normal to be mine, I can understand why they don’t feel privileged not to be dehumanized. It should be normal.
As a white female, I don’t think twice about walking through security without question. I am not actively grateful for never being pulled over without reason. And in my experience police have always been helpful and concerned, there to make sure I’m safe. To me, that’s normal, not privilege. But it is privilege.
It’s privilege because until our societal norm raises the baseline to a point where everyone, regardless of race, religion or gender is treated with the dignity and respect deserving of all humans, we must accept that the bar for privilege has been set too low. We can either accept this as a depressing fact of life, or we can choose to listen to those with a different experience of the world. We can empathize. We can stand up for those being mistreated. And we can teach our children to become the people we’d like to populate the world. We can do better.