Privilege: Who Has It?

Privilege encompasses the advantages society bestows upon people, generally but not limited to, social status, gender and race. It primarily lies within the dominant group. Members of dominant groups can be individuals, whereas members of other groups are often lumped together as one entity, with one opinion and one story.

Previously I had only thought about privilege when I felt I lacked it in a given situation. While contemplating this question I thought about a scenario last year that occurred at my high school where the English department curtailed the teaching of Huckleberry Finn. At first I was very confused by this decision, but now I think I understand the situation more clearly. Walking into the classroom as a white student, I had the ability to state my opinions without being attached to my race. I never considered how it would feel to be the only black student in an English class learning about Huck Finn. People would probably want that student’s opinion not because he or she was insightful but because people wanted to hear the “black opinion.” I was insensitive about this issue because I had the opportunity to create my own identity.

In some areas I am privileged, and in other areas I am not. Unknowingly, I have previously taken advantage of my privilege, but at the same time I demand equality in areas that I lack privilege. This juxtaposition is hypocritical but real nonetheless. How can I demand gender equality without actively seeking change in racial inequality? It seems that those who enjoy having privilege are the ones with the greatest capacity to create change.

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