The Privilege of Privilege

Yesterday, after I posted the exciting conclusion to the Nickelodeon countdown, I anxiously awaited responses. Truthfully, I obsessively checked the stats button yesterday wanting to see how many people viewed the post. I wanted to know if others agreed with me. Did they enjoy the post? I was convinced that the final number would represent success. 6, then 23, then 26, then 32, and finally 47. I was disappointed with the final number because it did not match the previous day’s total. Then, I caught myself. I am writing this blog for me and not for numbers. It felt good to write that last sentence, and exercise yesterday’s overzealous anxiety.

Shortly after I posted a poll to get the pulse of the readers, I received a text message from a friend; it stated, “Thanks for making me smile today…I needed it!” Success! I excitedly wrote back, “Awww. Thanks. I just added a poll so if you want to share your favorite show, please do.” My friend wrote that it would be difficult to participate in the poll because they did not have cable growing up.

I digested that.

The privilege of privilege.

Dr. Steven Jones, a diversity consultant in California, provided a great example to help the audience at a conference a few years ago understand the often misunderstood concept of privilege. He proclaimed, “The subway system in NYC privileges right-handed people.” Wait, what? As I right-handed person (I’m actually ambidextrous, a natural lefty, but was trained by my grandfather to use my right hand for everything. In fact, I did not find out that I was left handed until I attempted to throw a football in second grade and it traveled literally three feet and the other boys laughed at me. I instinctively picked up the ball with my left hand, and hurled it much further then the furthest receiver), I was certain that I did not have any privilege. Did I miss the right handed discount or something? Was there a special car that only we, right-handed people, could board? What was he talking about, I thought, perplexed while I wrested with my understanding of his declaration. Thinking back on that moment, the term “privilege” rubbed me the wrong way. I did not want to be privileged because the majority of times I heard that term was during discussions focused on racial issues, specifically white privilege. In those discussions I am definitely not privileged . Confused, I looked around and saw a few people shaking their head in agreement. I must be missing something, I thought. Someone else, who shared the same confused face that I embarrassingly wore, bravely stood up and asked for clarification. A young man stood up immediately. He said that as a left handed person, he was tired of reaching across his body every time he wanted to swipe his metrocard and enter the train station. Eureka! After miming a swipe as a left handed person, I recognized the validity of Dr. Jones’ first statement.

The privilege of privilege.

As part of the dominant group, right handed people, I am unaware of the way the world is designed to make my life easy. From notebooks to coffee mugs, many common items are designed with right handed people in mind. My privilege is that I have the ability to not see my privilege. My privilege is that I am unaware of my privilege. My privilege is that my privilege is understood to be the norm. Meanwhile, my left handed friends have to find ways to operate within a world in which they are less privileged.

Yesterday, that text from my friend reminded me that it is a privilege to have cable. It is a privilege that is not shared by everyone, though I made the assumption that it is one that all my readers would have. The tricky thing about privilege is that you need someone, often less privileged, to show you your privilege.

Consider your race, age, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and ability. What are your everyday privileges?

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2 thoughts on “The Privilege of Privilege

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