Privilege 101


By Phoenix Calida

Privilege is a thing you have. You get it without asking for it or deserving it. You get privilege because you fall into categories that are deemed desirable by society. You get privilege for most closely resembling the people who run our society. In America, this means the more you resemble white, wealthy, Christian, cis, hetero, abled, males, the more privilege you have. 

You can have privilege in an area, but not have privilege in another. That is called an intersection.

For example, a cis man has cis and male privilege, but he may be black so he lacks white privilege.
A white cis woman has cis and white privilege, but not male privilege.
A white trans woman has white privilege but not male or cis privilege.
A black cis woman has neither male nor white privilege.
A non white trans woman has none of these privileges.

Most people who are marginalized suffer oppression on multiple fronts. Example- racism. Racism not only increases the amount of negative interactions people of color face, it also makes people of color more likely to go to jail, live in poverty, be denied jobs, or be harassed by police, and that’s in addition to racial slurs and people touching our hair without permission.

Having certain privileges is not a guarantee your life will be easy or fair.

Privilege simply means that under the exact same set of circumstances your in, life would be harder without your privilege.

Being poor is hard. Being poor and disabled is harder.

Being a woman is hard. Being a trans woman is harder.

Being a white woman is hard, being a woman of color is harder.

Being a black man is hard, being a gay black man is harder.

Just because you’re a cis white hetero male doesn’t mean you’ll never have a problem. But it does mean your odds of being killed or harassed by police are lower than a black man. So you may be too poor to catch the bus home, but odds are police wont shoot you on your trip. You’re odds of being raped are lower than a woman, so you’ve probably never felt a need to make a “in case of rape escape plan” while on a date. You don’t have to worry about being outed as gay, so even if your coworkers bully you, they can’t threaten to out you to your homophobic family.

Of course, you can still be poor and struggle. You might have a mental health issue, or a disability. And that makes life hard. BUT that same life would be even harder if you were someone else who has less privilege.

So examine your life. Critically engage. Ask yourself, would my life be easier or harder if I was gay/queer/trans/ a woman/not white/disabled/poor, etc

All of that said, being born with privilege doesn’t make you a bad person. But using your undeserved privilege to step on or over others? That makes you a major asshole.

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