“Check Your Privilege”

Miss Violet Baudelaire… To the Princeton Privileged Kid

Checking your privilege doesn’t mean anyone is asking you to say “I only have things because I am part of privileged groups”. It does mean someone is asking you to say “By position of a characteristic I was born with, I have been helped, or at least not hurt, more than others without this characteristic”. It does not mean anyone wants you to apologize for it; it does mean someone is asking for an acknowledgement of the implications of it, either for how it is impacted where you are now, how it might be skewing your perspective or level of knowledge in discussing a subject, or for how the lack of that same privilege may have made things different for someone else.

Actually, Baudelaire’s post (and many comments following) are instructive. I’m POC, but “sound white”. My father isn’t a fireman (a fireman’s kid once pointed out). I’m light-skinned: on the East coast I’m Puerto Rican, on the West I’m Latina, and Pacific Islanders scratch their heads. My speech and appearance makes it difficult for people to type and classify me.

Worked at an inner-city computer lab once. Cop comes in looking for somebody, walking through the entire lab without asking permission. Everyone looks down, not engaging or responding. I know this cop shouldn’t be walking through as easily as he’s doing. He leaves, and… what happened next made me check my privilege so damn fast it left me breathless. Everyone was invisible, except me.

Checking privilege, as Baudelaire points out, is not personal. If it’s difficult to engage with someone, checking privilege really does break the ice.

It’s always about a specific set of characteristics (race, gender, education, income) that can, or may, be — indirectly or directly — deployed to assist or harm another person.

Mediate may need to check its privilege. When I learned “sounding white” could have a negative impact (other kid’s don’t like you [that’s how far back this went]), I learned to modulate my speech. Over time I learned the art of not trying to sound “black”, but removing some of the edges from sounding “white”. That expressing an opinion (most times based or informed by religion, politics, gender, class &c) is a lot less threatening than the unaware, unthinking and always automatic propulsive promulgating power of speaking from authority.

gosh, i haven’t posted here in ages.

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One thought on ““Check Your Privilege”

  1. Pingback: Who’s Down With CYP? | Regulus in Virgo

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