It Doesn’t Work That Way

keep-calm-and-check-your-privilegeIn the past few years, I’ve become aware of something called privilege (I’m a white boy; cluelessness is part of the package). It’s not hard to figure why:  almost every conversation about equality these days involves privilege one way or another. Not only that, the internet is flooded with articles about it. And, almost every one of the articles  I’ve read presents privilege as a hierarchy with well-defined slots that each of us occupies based on our race, gender, sexuality, etc. In my experience, that’s not how it works.

Recently, I read a blog that tells me, as a straight, white male, I’m playing the game on the “lowest difficulty setting there is“. I acknowledge that straight, white males have distinct advantages over people of color, people who are gay and/or gender-nonconforming, women and most other groups. But, being a straight, white male doesn’t automatically place you at the top of the heap. Look at me, for example. I am a straight, white male and, according to the logic of the article, things are just as easy for me as any other straight, white male. Not quite. Yes, I am straight, white and male, but I am also a lower-middle class southerner with a high-school diploma. That means that while certain doors are open to me that aren’t to others, they are opened grudgingly.  If I’m playing at the easy level, there’s one that even easier.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I don’t have the benefit of privilege, I’m saying that privilege is much more nuanced than it is presented in most of the articles I’ve read on the subject. The thing is, we all benefit from privilege in one way or another (except maybe African-American trans-women, who catch crap on just about every front). Gay, white men? Well, they’re white men, so they’ve got that going for them. Straight white women? They’re straight and white, both of which are a pretty sweet deal. See what I mean? And, yes, I know that benefit may not offset the discrimination they have to deal with. But, it does exist and we shouldn’t discount it.

Regardless of what the talking heads at FoxNews say, the playing field is not level. Sadly, human nature being what it is, that may not ever be possible. But, what is possible is for all of us to recognize what privilege we have and use it to help those at on the lower end of the field. It might not level things out, but it’s certainly beats continuing to crap on the neighbors we’re called to love.