Privilege exists in many forms. Racial, socioeconomic, able-bodied, educational… Some of our identities are less marginalized than others. Some of us exist in the world without fear of being pulled over for no reason or with the ability to fly on an airplane without being stared at the entire time. Our last name doesn’t guarantee we’ll be pulled out of line by TSA and our education guarantees we’ll be able to find a job that can sustain our families.
Privilege has gained a negative connotation in this social media age. People get offended when the term gets tossed around, mainly because they’ve never been held accountable for their privilege before. Navigating this hyper-connected world is like navigating land mines. Trying not to offend others while pursuing conscious education about identities other than your own can become overwhelming. But it is crucial to becoming a better ally.
Everyone has a certain degree of privilege in their lives. If you want to become a better ally in these times of increasing racial, political, and socioeconomic tension, follow these few easy steps to checking your privilege and becoming more conscious of the world around you.
Ask yourself, “Do I qualify in any way as this identity?” If the answer is yes, then you are entitled to an opinion. If not, take a step back and listen to those who have first-hand experience with whatever is going on.
Do not step into a space without being invited. Marginalized identities create safe spaces to experience life with others who claim the same identity, free of fear or retribution from those who see them as different or even dangerous. As much as you want to learn more or help, take a step back and wait to be invited in, if at all.
Admit your shortcomings. Nobody is perfect. We are all learning. We can all learn from each other. However, it is no one’s obligation to educate or placate someone with more privilege. Do the research on your own and don’t place it on the shoulders of the marginalized.
We are all learning to navigate this world and achieve justice for all identities. Take it one step at a time. And know when you need to take a step back.