What do I do with my privilege?

I don’t know what to do with my privilege.

No, I’m not a white male in my >40’s. In fact, I’m known as a minority. Add to that the fact that I’m a female.

But I have never been aware of these attributes about myself. I see myself as a general human specimen without being conscious of my colour or gender.

Today though I am aware of myself in relation to the society. I am acutely aware of my privilege. Despite being a minority and not being the “superior” sex, I feel I have had as much privilege as them.

Some may not think twice about the family they are born into but it has huge implications in our lives. Simply being born into an educated family can mean a well paying job, no debt, and an incredible unmatched sense of independence. Not to mention being free from any kind of burden that lets one grow carelessly and which leads to better brain development.

Add all of these factors and it can mean the difference between luxurious meals and literally starvation. Opportunities vs. struggle. Varied experiences vs. routine. Connections vs. none. Abundance vs. scarcity.

But this knowledge has left me with turmoil. I was far better off not knowing and living in my tiny little bubble. Now every time I encounter someone with less or more privilege I can’t help but picture myself in their lives. And it leaves me, on both accounts, with sadness and a bit of anger. Why do I have so much? Why do they have so much? This perpetual awareness of everyone’s position in the society is harmful drug.

But now that I am aware of my privilege, now what?

What do I do with this information?

Do I keep feeling bad for those who haven’t had it? Wouldn’t that just be pity? Should I feel ashamed of my successes? What about the hard work that I’ve done? Does that not count?

What do I do with my privilege?!

After countless days of pondering over this subject, I realized there is only one thing I can do: pay it forward.

Sympathy and pity won’t help those with less than me but my knowledge, experience, connections, and abundance can.

Pay it forward. Help. That’s what I can do.


P.S. it was just a coincidence that I decided to write this post on Giving Tuesday 🙂

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6 thoughts on “What do I do with my privilege?

  1. You can pay it forward monetarily or through action, advocacy, being cognizant of your own privilege and the privilege of others! 🙂 There’s all sorts of things to do with it. 🙂 At least I try to do as much as I can with mine.

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  2. I typed “What do I do with my privilege” in my search engine and came upon this blog entry. It speaks to me completely, so I thank-the author for her naming this problem. Thank-you. Sincerely.

    I am also a woman of color (two target identities) yet I have an elite education, an affluent family, high income, and good health. I have purposefully sought a life of service to “pay it forward” as your blog suggests. And while I cling to the hope that it is enough, I still seem to stumble on my privilege. There’s more that is needed.

    In my professional environment, there are colleagues who did not have the same privileges as myself. Their journey to get to where they are (where we function as equals) was full of struggles I never knew or imagined. So my water cooler conversations lacked the awareness of the pain that they have endured. And, in my ignorance, I’ve long wondered why they think I am snobby. In my mind, I am just being me, sharing what wonderful things I did the previous weekend, or my hopes for my very bright future.

    This is a conundrum that has perplexed me for many years. A dear friend, a white male, recently said to me (in reference to this dilemma), “Welcome to what it’s like being white.” What he meant was, “wake up, Girl, you have privilege. You didn’t earn it. It was only because you were born into an oppressive system and you got a winning lottery ticket. Just like all white people.”

    So when I am going on and on about my good life, I can be a reminder to those less privileged about the unfairness of life. Coming to this realization brought on deep sadness, just as the author of this blog wrote. And like her I’m stuck asking the same question over and over again: “What do I do with my privilege?” Her answer resonates: I can no longer be naively me no matter what wonderful things I’ve experienced or gifts that have come my way. Not until the playing field becomes more even.

    So paying it forward is vitally important and urgent in order to work toward eliminating inequities in all systems of oppression. I’m still unclear what to do at the watercooler other than hold back my tears.

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    1. I am glad that my post resonated with you.

      I would say that at watercooler conversations, ask your colleagues about their struggles and listen. Just listen. Sometimes all they need is someone to hear them and acknowledge that the world is unfair. And in return you would be enriching yourself of what’s out there in the world and learning about all kinds of people.

      Also, with certain people it would be giving their struggles respect by avoiding certain topics and I believe that’s what we should all strive for. And that doesn’t mean we are not being ourselves in fact, we are evolving. I would go as far as to say we are exhibiting leadership qualities by understanding our audience and giving them what they need and trying to empathize.

      Good luck in your quest and let me know how it goes.

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