Let’s Talk Privilege

Today I want to talk about some of the privileges we can be born with and take for granted.

First let me say: all of us struggle. All of us. No matter who we are. We all experience pain, loss, darkness, sadness, struggles, and are asked to grow. All. Of. Us.

But some of us are born into situations of privilege and get to side step struggles that other people face on the daily. And I think it’s really important to acknowledge that.

I am one of those people. I am a lucky girl. I was born into lots of privilege.

I am white. I am genetically thin. I am able-bodied. I am straight. I was born with a financial “leg-up”.

I am privileged. Besides some hormone stuff and chronic fatigue… I won the genetic lottery.

And I didn’t know that until I heard about it from other people… relatively recently. Sure I knew I was lucky, but looking at it in terms of “privileges” was something I had to learn.

And here is the important thing to note: We can experience some privileges and not others. For instance, I experience most all privileges except being a man – my struggles came from the twisted way women’s bodies are treated in our culture.

Another example, some white men (the ‘top of the food chain’, the ones who have held the position of power for… centuries) experience all positions of privilege except being straight, for instance. So they are treated poorly for being gay in a society that still sees that as being less than, but still get to benefit from being white and male.

Or, in a different scenario, that white male is born into poverty, and so they have odds to face, but their privilege and their leg up is being white and male.

Having a hard life doesn’t mean you don’t still get to benefit from certain privileges that allow you to be treated better, and see yourself reflected positively in the media, etc.

So even though some people are born into poverty and abuse, they still get to benefit in their every day lives walking into a store just by being white, or thin, no matter how hard their lives are otherwise.

So, what do we do with our privilege?

We get to be allies. We get to listen. We get to admit that there are injustices and that people aren’t always treated fairly. We get to try, in small ways, to make the world a kinder place.

I get to be an ally. I get to talk about oppression and prejudice, kindness and acceptance, while still getting to benefit from being in the privileged party.

For instance? Fat activism.

I am a fat activist. I believe, in my core, that our culture accepting body diversity is a really important social issue. It’s a matter of human rights and human dignity. And once we move further in that direction of kindness, understanding, and acceptance, everyone will benefit.

But I still get to benefit from being thin while that is all happening and slowly changing.

Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing. Why do I get to talk about my experience? Why do I get to be the one to tell people how to be happy when in some ways, I have it so easy?

Especially this past week, with racial tensions running so high. With fear and sadness and misunderstanding and people wanting safety and to be heard….

I wonder what I’m doing – and if I’m even using my privilege to help in the best way possible.

And I don’t know.

Cause what do I really know about pain and suffering?

What do I know about oppression?

The answer is, maybe not much.

So I stick to what I DO know about:

Hating yourself.

I know, deeply, about hating yourself.

Given a charmed life, I still hated myself.

There was nothing wrong with me (or you, or any of us) and I hated myself anyway. And yes, it was largely because I didn’t think I fit the standard for what a woman should look like. I was failing the beauty game, I thought. So I hated myself. And I thought hating myself would fix me somehow.

All I know how to teach is not hating yourself. (And feeding yourself.) And then not hating yourself some more. All I know how to teach is compassion – for ourselves and others.

And on a deep level, I think that will help heal us all. I really think that all people who think less of other people, do it because they hate themselves. They don’t know how to deal or feel and so they turn it on others and other groups. It’s all fear.

And no matter how evolved we are, we all do that a little bit.

So I will keep teaching not hating yourself. Because privilege aside, we are all worthy of feeling good enough. Because we are all good enough.

So if you are realizing you have some privileges (even if you don’t have others), what do you do?

-Listen. Listen to the people who have had different experiences than you.

-Be compassionate to those who are different from you.

-Learn to be kind to yourself. Because it sounds cheesy… but it really is difficult to love and be kind to others if you can’t do that to yourself.

-Just get more comfortable admitting that you don’t have all the answers. You don’t know what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. All you can do is be kind and listen.

If we all did that… can you imagine how healing that would be?