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Are You Privileged? Be A Part Of The Most Important Discussion Right Now

Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Yes, this is what smart people do.

Like all contemporary buzzwords and concepts, the word ‘privilege’ fills a purpose. Although it is not a recent coinage, it usually stands for the framework of understanding an individual or the society in general. On the contrary, today it has become a privilege call-out in the sense ‘hey, check your privilege’ or ‘Well, I can see your privilege waving us a bold hello’. The recipient is most unlikely to accept that sting. He may understand its evocation as a gauge of insult. ‘Oh how dare you?’ will be his outright reply.

To quote DaShane Stokes,

Privilege is presuming to speak for others you know nothing about. Privilege is when your voice is the norm, but still you claim to be unheard. Privilege is when you can afford to sit back and criticize others who have to fight for the things you have taken for granted.

We are more than aware of the small injustices around us, and yet, sit silent and do nothing about them.

Suggested read: Take It From A Fat ME: 13 Perks Of The Thin Privilege You Never Knew You Had

So dear privileged people,

No one is saying your life can’t be hard because you are privileged. The truth is that it isn’t hard because you are privileged.  This earnest profundity of mine comes from a tweet that I suddenly remember was posted by a user named Austin (@kvxll) which read – “Dear straight people: no one is saying your life can’t be hard if you’re straight, but it’s not hard because you’re straight”. My statement forges on the same idea. Privilege is ubiquitous. You aren’t the sole keeper of it. So stop taking it personally.

  1. Privilege is your birth-tag. You are born with it.


Image source: Google, copyright-free image, under Creative Commons License 

Privilege is what you are blessedly given (yes, I use the word blessedly, and will further elaborate on this context later). You have no control over it. If you have privilege, then you have privilege. That is why it becomes important to check your privileges, in order to understand the disposition of the people who don’t have that kind of understanding. Do not feel guilty about what you have and what you do not.

Try to look at the bigger picture. It isn’t beautiful at all. Inequality exists around a wide range of axes where the ‘haves’ in each area are oblivious. Hence, privilege is that word to convey the multifaceted aspects of luck, entitlement, and exemptions that naturally accompany us.

  1. Asking you to check your privilege is not equivalent to insulting you.

The two sides of the same coin are as follows – someone may deliberately denigrate you by telling you off or else make you realise that balking at a privilege accusation is probably another of your fancy ways to deny unearned and largely unacknowledged advantages. Are you that person too? Checking your privilege isn’t a direct assault on your character. Not everyone is born with a golden spoon in their mouths or with benefits served on a silver platter. Growing up is not always beneficial patrimony. Rather everybody has a right to grow up in their lives or as a person and fall a party to their own success.

Where do you start explaining when a man’s word show there isn’t anything he      understands, about a subject but instead is loaded with preconceptions that don’t fit facts, and (he) doesn’t know…?

 – Robert Heinlein in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

  1. What “checking your privilege” doesn’t mean

myths about feminism_new_love_times

Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License 

Well-intentioned phrases and meanings are often miused. Start checking your privilege before making a political point, that is, if you are white, a man, heterosexual, healthy, wealthy and able bodied. Checking your privilege is not derogatory. It is an impudent exhortation to greet identity politics and intersectionality – the school of thought which says different minorities experience discrimination or oppression differently.

It is obvious that some of your advantages will be more apparent than others in the whole basket of opportunities you’re born with and that you never had to ask separately for. Relish the idea that life is a different journey for everyone. Yours has been pretty outstanding overall.

  1. Privilege has wrecked our conscience, so it is time that we stop defending it.

This isn’t a statement that should kick the defence mechanism about who you are, where you are, how hard you have worked in life  or what you have overcome. It is about appreciating the blessings in your life and making you socially conscious. Individual accusations of privilege goes hand in hand with abstract discussions of the meaning of the term. It does not mean your struggles and hardships aren’t worth deserving. The reality hovers over the fact that due to societal constructs, some people have it worse than you. They are not allowed even a bit of the similar struggle you experienced. It is not a competition. This is where my justification of the term ‘blessedly’ applies.

Laurie Penny defended privilege- checking when she said,

Nobody is telling you to shut up…Telling you to ‘check their privilege’ isn’t the same as censoring or silencing,

-thereby inviting a heated, pan-political and multimedia altercation. Privilege at the root is a benign concept, but often is triumphed over by personal experience. But that isn’t how it works.

Oh My Dear Fighters of Social Justice, do you even faintly realise how easy it is to mock privilege-checking with its inferences of a lunatic leftness or pulsating liberal guilt. Yes, it’s surprisingly possible for many people to forget that theirs isn’t the only voice that matters. I am simply taken aback at how a well-meaning reminder of having to listen to other people out of generosity has turned into an angry cliché through overuse, mockery and a fallacy. Maybe it is high time that the phrase itself should recheck its privilege.

  1. It is a compliment

myths about feminism_new_love_times

Image source: Google, copyright-free image, under Creative Commons License 

Asking for compassion is not an insult. Privilege is bestowed upon you by your social status while for others, their backwardness is their greatest disadvantage. How firmly are we reminded that this society where we live in is prejudiced. No, we aren’t thrilled at the society being unequal. So while asking you to take note of your privileges, one is asking you to be compassionate towards their particular struggles. They want you to reflect on the ways that both your lives and backgrounds are different. They assume that you have the proficiency to rise to the occasion and unfurl empathy for people like them.

Life is not easy sailing. Checking your privilege isn’t about admitting that you’ve had an easy life. It’s about accepting there are certain struggles that you will never encounter which are very specific to certain groups of people. Without invalidating your struggle, it highlights that difficulties vary based on our identities, and as a result, our lives and our experiences are drastically different. Learn how to walk in someone else’s shoes. This is not the time to derail someone’s hard battle by inserting yours. The challenge should be to present yourself rather than opting out.

  1. Your education is your responsibility.

Don’t pressurize the person asking you to acknowledge your privileges to open up about their pain just for comparison. It can be disrespectful, stressful or exhausting. Being asked to reflect on your own privilege isn’t an invitation into their(the others) personal life. Similarly, you aren’t authorized to their time, toil or trauma.

Author Jon Ronson’s popular demo of public shaming stemmed from publicist Justine Sacco’s twitter- “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding, I ‘m white!”-provoked a pile-on rooted in privilege controversy. Ronson wrote in reply to this, “[I]t was her apparently gleeful flaunting of her privilege that angered people.” So it was.“A reflexive critique of white privilege—on our tendency to naïvely imagine ourselves immune from life’s horrors”, Ronson added. Privilege controversies emanate from poorly worded attempts to challenge concepts. Thanks to mainstream media, over enthusiastic journalists, and several former politicians who had professed to be baffled by its meaning.

  1. You Participate In Solutions

being friends with your ex_new_love_times

Image source: Google, copyright-free image, under Creative Commons License

In social justice terms, the oblivious white anti-racist or male feminist—is often the person who inspires YPIS rage. YPIS means You Participate in Solutions. It’s not just straightforward bigots or people outside the ally framework who don’t get called out, but when they do it seems futile. Hence, there’s a dab to be gained by telling someone that he was exhibiting white privilege. Because if there’s anyone in this world not moved by a YPIS, it’s a white man making a federal case about reverse racism.

  1. The progress of privilege checking

While gaps in the flaws remain gaps, huge swaths of awareness have certainly been hoisted. Constantly sermonizing to fix people in a way to uplift them may seem nagging.  Similarly indulging in frequent use of ‘checking your privilege’ can lead to disharmony and increased irritation. “Three decades of checking privilege directly correlate with an astronomical rise in income inequality.”The society is neck deep in privileges. Plenty of outspoken racism, sexism, and xenophobia existed before its turn. Having backfired more than a hundred times, it’s time to step away from the question of individual motivation and to approach questions of injustice from more productive angles.

The elites of today think they are “normal,” “just like others” which is deeply irritating. However, what happens when the crisp bunch of unearned advantage is out in the open? Children of politicians are presumably aware that their name-recognition puts them to multitudes of advantages and what all it inspires, yet Windsors, Bushes and Kennedys, get to claim that “it was harder for them with all the expectations.”However the important question is – Are people really so bereft of concern that they need “repetitive checking your privilege” reminders”?

  1. “Checking your privilege” should begin a conversation, it shouldn’t end one

couple looking at each other

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Start by precisely mentioning about the faulty premises, assumptions, arguments and then consider the reasons behind it. Lay down the correct considerations and concepts. Slowly build on that foundation. The ‘new and improved’ premises will change your consciousness and provide you an alternative remedy. It cannot be narrowed down to an individual’s lane of self-interest but reach out to victims, big and small. It should also explain how others will be affected in order to address the asserted problem, including whether there should be coercive impositions on members of the supposedly victimizer class with their dominant attitude which isn’t remotely connected with the sins of the fathers.

  1. White Privilege – Rich Privilege

“Checking your privilege” aggravates mutual understanding. It is the beginning of an assertion of a special benefit for some to be allowed to” define themselves as white hat and those who disagree as black hats” without ever having to ask what they want. This is not an epithet of social demonization meant to impose their “solutions,” always at the expense of the supposed black hats. This will sabotage social cooperation by impeding the rights upon which it is built.

At a recent Donald Trump rally in North Carolina, a black man was punched in the face by a white man. Then, the black man after being pushed to the ground, was handcuffed. Sounds messed up, doesn’t it? People with “black-sounding” names are less likely to get called for a job interview than people with white sounding names, this is white privilege. When minorities have a hard time getting roles in Hollywood and white actors end up playing different characters of color in the movies, that is white privilege.

Racism isn’t the exclusive outcome of white privilege but consistently denying having personally benefited from it is a sham. White people aren’t being cold-bloodedly shot on a busy road neither are they scared to walk alone at night. Even the ‘poor white classes’ are subtly better off than that “poor black classes”. This is what asking you to check your privilege means.


Image source: Google, copyright-free image, under Creative Commons License

Similarly, the idea and ideal of a middle-class society makes sense when incomes are reasonably equal. Some people may be better off than others, but if the majority are broadly inside the same economic boat, it makes sense for that boat to be the weary middle class, a double blow of socialism and Francophile called the “bourgeoisie”. But the definition of growing income inequality has been stretched to the breaking point, especially towards the top (the word variance or synonym for the rich).  Inequality is not about the gap between the middle and bottom. It is about the one between the top and everybody else, the wealthy and everyone else. The danger therefore lies in the perpetuation of class status across generations.

Because oftentimes it sounds like….

A healthy individual can climb stairs but you cannot, you are able to attend a job but that villager’s child cannot. I have got enrolled to a particular course but that black student with more marks than me did not. Does privilege seem like an insult to you here?

Recognizing privilege can be the simplest part, but not the only part. It is more important to recognize those who are not privileged in the way that you are.

Don’t hesitate to speak about social, racial, gender discrimination or apathy.

Ask yourself!

How are my experiences different from those of many others? What are the benefits I have that others don’t? Once you find answers to this question, you can get a grasp over how the entire layout works. The more you’re aware of your privileges and realise the fact that not everyone is born and seen equal in our society, the more you can help to make it so that in the future it isn’t that way.

Yes, you also have the right to counter question me. So ask me how progress would follow and why the reverse wouldn’t be the outcome; how rendering all hierarchies transparent will lead to their disappearance? How will it not keep those at the bottom despairing and those at the top viewing their unearned privileges as more precious?


Image source: Google, copyright-free image, under Creative Commons License

Awareness in unison is the key to a better society. While some critics insist that it’s all talk and no action, the transformations speak for themselves. No society is dormant. It is through ups and downs, violence and serenity that it grows up to branch out further. This implausible but implicit step after step awareness epiphany, is at its root the essence of privilege checking.Only such candour can lead to empathy.” In a society where systematic injustices are front and centre of everyone’s mind, privilege – checking will enable cross interaction between the white and black, rich and poor, man and woman on equal terms and hence the status quo will be pronounced, building the development of everyday social and professional bonds.

Privilege is a learned virtue. However, the negligence is strong. Ignorance isn’t bliss here. It is an instance of conscious stupor that is pushing the very society that you live in, downhill. Therefore, if you are to learn an important lesson from this article and the next time someone bluntly asks you to check your privilege, get up and do that. Or else, assuming that you my readers are already learned, don’t give them a chance to point to your privilege checking. Be kind, be smart, be intelligent. The world will feel like a healthier place.

Thanking you,

From one privileged individual to many others.

Featured image source: Google, copyright-free image, under Creative Commons License

Article Name
Why It Is Important To Wake Up And Check Your Privileges
You need to check your privilege, and if you don't know how or why, read this one article that will tell you everything you need to know about understanding privilege.
Palomi Dey Sarkar

Palomi Dey Sarkar

A writer. A feminist. A tea connoisseur. I love watching dog videos most of the time while pretending to be useful. Words give me the space to breathe, and writing heals my soul. Words untie my feeling of displeasure towards this complicated world and writing provides catharsis. Yet I keep on looking for a tinge of magic everywhere. I crack silly jokes while my friends laugh at my madness. That is my labor of love.