The first thing or image that pops into people’s minds when we talk about privilege is material wealth.The image that comes that often comes to mind is private jets and episodes of ‘My super sweet 16.
It is such a touchy word and a lot of people automatically recoil at its use.So when you tell the average person who was not born with a silver(these days more diamond) spoon that they have privilege they automatically look for ways to refute it or tell you how hard they had it or how ‘hard’ they worked to get where they are.
See below a paraphrased definition of the word;
a special advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group
The range of privilege is quite wide. An obvious one could be access or ability to afford a private education.This is an advantage over so many people who might not be able to afford that type education.And this is no way diminishes the education others receive,it just highlights a different experience.
I know my example contradicts my initial introduction but I am going somewhere. Privilege is not just about having access to wealth.
The inspiration for this post came from something a popular blogger/author posted on the issue of passport privilege. You don’t realise the difference in treatment of citizens who carry certain passports until you come across the stories of citizens who don’t.
It struck a chord because I am a naturalised British citizen. I remember having a conversation with one of my colleagues who didn’t realise what applying for a visa entailed. He was so perplexed at the whole process despite being relatively well traveled he had never had to apply for a travel visa until this occasion.
That’s privilege right there!
Is he wealthy? Not really.
However by pure circumstance birth(you can’t choose where you are born) he has access to travel visa free to more countries that billions of people have to apply for travel visas to visit. He just needs to buy a travel ticket to 185 countries in the world.
I have been in the shoes of those billions and can acknowledge the privilege one of the passports i now carry bestows on me. I am not sure prior to our conversation he had ever seen having a British passport as a privilege but as his right which it is.
Let’s no go into the unfairness of why some humans are considered more ‘trustworthy ‘ because of their location of birth. It just shows you the colonial echoes that are still evident in the world today but that’s a topic for another day.
So why am I asking you to acknowledge your privilege?
I find that without the acknowledgement of privilege, it is harder to feel empathy for the struggles of those who might not have had the opportunities that you had.
Acknowledging your privilege allows you to see the sum total of things that might have contributed to your story and accomplishments.
It does not mean you discount the effort and hard work that you put in but it means you have a greater appreciation for those things that contributed to your progress.
It also makes it evident to you how the lack of those opportunities might have been a disadvantage to others.
I was not brought up in a wealthy home but below are some of the opportunities I had that no doubt helped shape who I am and are becoming;
Educated and healthy parents
High academic expectations
Access to a great education
Not having to worry about food,shelter or clothing
A very early exposure to books
Most of the list seem like basics don’t they? Also notice that they are not necessarily tied to having loads of money.
One of my greatest heart‘s desires is that ALL children have most of the things on that list especially those that we could call the ‘basics’.
But we all know that’s not the case.
We know the chances of a child doing well at school greatly reduces if they have a sick parent that they have to care for. Now there are some children that will still strive and succeed despite those challenging circumstances but it means they have to work twice as hard as those who don’t.
Various studies have shown that one of the leading causes in the decline of social mobility in most countries in the world can be linked to some of the things my list.
I am no Einstein but research shows that children who have have high academic expectations,have educated parents tend to do better at school even despite other socio-economic realities.
Again I will caveat this by saying some children still do well without these but having had these privilege, I can appreciate what they have been able to achieve even more.
I knew I had to work hard in school but in retrospect maybe I should not have laughed at colleagues in University who I felt did not have the command of English that I did.
Or judged and mocked those who wore the same t shirt and jeans all week. They probably had a different background and being in the same class meant that they had beaten more odds than I had.
If I had the mindset I have now, it would have made me acknowledge that I was not better than them simply because of the clothes I wore or the way I spoke English.
Your privilege might have been a mother who just would not give up on you despite how many times you failed.
Or an Aunty who told you about the internship that changed the course of your career.
Or a father who spent all his life savings to send you on that post graduate course.
Or the mum who worked 4 jobs in a foreign country so you could join her one day.
Or the coach who took you on for nothing to nurture that talent that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
It might even be as mundane as turning on the tap and water comes out.
Or going to school without having to worry about being shot at.
Or being able to go the doctor without having to sacrifice eating for a while month.
Acknowledging privilege and gratitude go hand in hand. Gratitude is also the springboard for true empathy.
Think of the ways that you might have had an advantage that is not readily available to someone else. And try to pay it forward in your own little way.
Lastly ,think of all the things that you can be grateful for this week .
This is something that I find makes a difference in how you view life. I know life can be tough but looking at life through the lens of gratitude makes the journey more bearable.
I hope you have a lovely Tuesday and week ahead. Would love to read your comments and please do share this blog with others.
Thank you for reading
Lots of love
Quote photo credits – Pinterest