What is Privilege?

What is Privilege?

Hey there, Rebel, and welcome back to my life.

I’m a privileged straight cis white male shitlord—is how a lot of internet trolls begin sentences ironically.

They say it because they think it sounds ridiculous, because they don’t believe in the concept of privilege and think you’re ridiculous if you do.

So what is privilege, anyway?

Privilege is simply some passive benefit we experience because of where and who we are.

It takes a ton of forms. There’s racial privilege and gender privilege.

We can experience privilege because of our sexual orientation or our economic standing.

Sometimes we do experience privilege because of what we ourselves have done—like if you’re a self-made millionaire, that will give you some privilege.

But most often, we experience privilege because of things we can’t control, like our race or how rich our parents were when we were growing up.

So if that’s what privilege is, why is it so hard to spot? And why do people get so angry when you point out the privilege that they have?

There’s two main reasons people don’t accept privilege: because they’re ignorant of it, or because something makes them actively reject proof that it exists.

Some people simply aren’t educated about what privilege is and how it affects them or others.

And those people will usually listen when presented with factual data that racism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia, etc. are alive and kicking.

But there’s others who actively deny privilege, who don’t accept that discrimination exists based on skin color, or what dangles between our legs or doesn’t, or the gender we find attractive.

When things go well in our life, we WANT to believe we’re the direct cause of it, just like when things go poorly in our life, we WANT to believe it’s someone else’s fault.

But our desires don’t have anything to do with it either way.

If someone has never found it hard to get a job in their life, they’re likely to think they’re just a good employee, or that they’re very personable.

Because that’s a more attractive idea than to acknowledge the fact that they’re a middle-class white kid whose parents have always been connected to successful business owners.

That’s me by the way. Both times I’ve had to look for a job, I got one very quickly through a friend of my parents.

But when you get right down to it, who even cares? Why should we bother spotting privilege where it exists?

It’s because NOT doing so can produce extremely harmful results—and I mean REAL-WORLD harm.

If we believe we’re safe or popular or successful only because of OUR own actions, then we have to believe that other people are unsafe, or unpopular, or unsuccessful, only because of THEIR own actions.

If, for example, we acknowledge that black people suffer incredible discrimination in the justice system and the workforce and media because of the lingering effects of slavery,

we as white people also have to acknowledge that we only dominate in these fields because of the lingering effects of being slaveowners.

But despite OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE that this is true, it’s not a comfortable fact to face.

However, denying white privilege has led to a racist society and a terrified police force that disproportionately murders black people and invents all kinds of excuses why that’s okay.

Now, on the other side of the coin, some oppressed people don’t want to acknowledge the existence of privilege because they think it makes them a permanent victim.

They think that if privilege is why people are successful, then they can never be successful.

This is why you’ll sometimes see people of color adamantly denying that racism exists, or women saying sexism doesn’t exist, despite so much evidence to the contrary, and to their detriment.

But in the end, the truth is the truth. Data is data. And the data says privilege is real and has far-reaching effects in our society.

So what’s the point? Even if we come to accept privilege and recognize it, what then? What good does it do anyone to recognize privilege?

Well, privilege is not actually the problem. Privilege is a symptom of the problem.

So you don’t have to feel guilty for the fact that you can more easily get a job with a name like John than you would if your name was Jamal.

But we should all recognize that it’s a problem that someone named Jamal is less likely to be hired even if he’s more qualified.

And that’s what you’re supposed do once you recognize that privilege exists and what privilege you have.

You search for the people who are oppressed by the same factors that give you your privilege, and you use your privilege to help them. It’s really not that hard.

That’s it for today, Rebels. If you feel like leaving a comment, I’d like to know your stance on privilege. Are you resistant to the idea it exists? Do you have some insight why people are so resistant?

You might know someone who needs to see this video, so I’d love it if you’d share it on you social media of choice, whether that’s Twitter or Facebook or Reddit. *gag* Sorry.

And I also want to adopt a practice the vlogbrothers have begun recently. If you don’t want to leave your own comment, but you see a comment below that you think is pretty cool, just reply to that comment with a plus sign and nothing else.

It’s made their comments section a really nice place to be, and I think this video might need it.

Thank you so much for watching, and I will see you next time. Byyye.

Garrett Robinson

Over 100,000 readers have read and loved Garrett's books, like the fantasy hits Nightblade and Midrealm. He's also a film festival favorite with movies like Unsaid, and a tech guru who posts lots of helpful how-tos for writers and filmmakers over at garrettbrobinson.com.

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