On Privilege

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“Privilege” is a difficult term to define, and to talk about.

To some, it’s a derogatory term applied to those who have more than they do, or used to call out those who don’t behave as they “should.”

It’s not really a bad thing, but how we address it can be.

Acknowledging privilege is currently part of the so-called “woke” culture, another controversial term used by some to demean, and by others as a mark of pride.

Put me in the latter camp, I guess. If “woke” means caring for other people, as I believe it does, then call me woke. Somewhere between aspiring and woke AF.

Privilege is being afforded advantage in life because of what you are, rather than what you do. In some situations, no amount of doing can overcome the advantage given to others because of what they are. Hence, the use of privilege as a derogatory term. Advantage isn’t distributed equitably.

I’m a rich, old, white, straight, male. That’s nearly the pinnacle of privilege in the United States.

Simply by being those things, I’m afforded an advantage in life. Not necessarily through what I’ve accomplished, or even what I deserve, just because of how I arrived on the planet, and how long I’ve lasted. (There’s an argument that “rich” is often in part because of effort and accomplishment, but that’s often also not the case, or out of proportion.)

I don’t see privilege as something to be ashamed of, as many seem to feel. It’s not popular to embrace it, specifically because so many don’t acknowledge it. Some even deny its very existence.

Acknowledging it, and then using it to make life better for others and society as a whole — that’s a proper use of privilege.

That’s what I aspire to.

I’m grateful every day for my privilege. I feel I’m a steward of the gifts it affords me. But with those gifts comes responsibility. Those with any sort of privilege should acknowledge it and aspire to respect and use it wisely.

4 thoughts on “On Privilege”

  1. You have arrived. You have gotten what you aspire too. The fact that my computer works enough to write to you is a direct Thank you to Leo. I’d have beaten this thing to a powder if not for your good help.

    God bless and keep you,

  2. I’m a septuagenarian who was fairly recently diagnosed with a degree of severity in ADHD that, per my physician, meant that I should have dropped out of high school as is the norm.
    Instead, I had no idea of my limitations and went on to achieve a baccalaureate degree from Cornell and an MBA from Harvard, albeit with a great degree of difficulty and no notion whatsoever of the relative ease of my classmates.
    Per the doctor, the only possible explanation is a supremely high I.Q., which can plaster over lack of executive function and all of the other characteristics of this disease that so many don’t believe genuinely exists.
    Privilege?? I don’t believe so. Some of those who have my greatest admiration are Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, who enjoyed no privileges whatsoever.
    Pardon these jumbled thoughts, but I just got out of bed, an’ I aint wokes yet–y’all unnastan what I’se B talkin bout um hmm hmm hmm.

    • As a fellow person with ADD, I feel sad that I was regularly reminded of my failings. My high IQ got me through part of life, but couldn’t help me past the trauma of continued criticism through my formative years. What it did give me, was a well-developed sense of compassion and empathy, which, in turn, eventually allowed me to form an opinion of myself that is: I’m a valuable friend, an excellent problem solver (and inventor!) and one of the most resilient people I know. As a result, I also consider myself privileged.

  3. You are a fantastic steward of your gifts, and you have brought so much assurance, help and light into the world.
    Thank you so much.

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