What Do You Do With Your Privilege?
Privilege is anything you can afford which someone else can’t because of reasons they have little control over. Reasons such as place of birth and genetic constitution. Add culture and man-made differences, and you’ll get a potent swathe of categories. Ergo, if you can read this, you’re privileged.
In some parts of my birth country, there are people that cannot afford electricity. They’ll never know what the internet is. There are others who may have power but can’t even read because they had no education.
Some are blind and just can’t see; born this way or lost from the silent wars the country has been rocked by for almost a decade now.
There are many examples of circumstances we’re born into — or find ourselves in — through luck, coincidences and miracles. We know others in the same position as us, who might have taken the same actions as we took, who simply don’t have what we have.
“If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”― Max Ehrmann
It’s no longer a question of if we are privileged, but what we do about it. This isn’t Communism vs Capitalism. African vs American. West vs East.
It's simpler :
You have gifts, what have you done to serve them?
How have you raised others?
You can write, which stories do you pay attention to?
You have money, which causes do you intentionally promote?
You are a successful entrepreneur from a minority, what narrative do you carry and share?
You just found out about white privilege, how do you take action with the information you have?
The privileged get the chance to change the narrative on race, money, gender, charity, work, time, parenting, and relationships because they can afford to.
Because we are all privileged, we can effect change at various levels.
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
I stand here today thanks to all those who took the time to teach, share and give me so much of what they had whether it was money, experience or time. We are the sum of all those influences, conversations and seemingly unrelated events.
We are blind to our privilege because we almost always compare forward: we look at what we don’t have vs what they have. We look at how everything is ‘better’ for them.
The grass always seems greener over there.
What if we compared with the those who had no ground to plant the grass?
What if we compared with those who have droughts and brown grass infested with insects, struggling to stay alive?
Could that kind of thinking ground us and instill a little more gratitude?
I think so.
“When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more. Your desire can never be satisfied. But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself, ‘Oh yes — I already have everything that I really need.” — Dalai Lama
I don’t even think it’s about giving what you want without expectations (who doesn’t have expectations?); I know I am no Dalai Lama.
The more gratitude I express for the things I have, the more likely I am to do more for myself and for others. When I take the time to embrace my gifts and acknowledge the many who can’t afford what I can, I feel less pressured to perpetuate the false feeling that everything is bad for myself, and myself only.
This doesn’t take away the reality of daily living: immigration, bills, misunderstandings, and unpleasant coincidences. But, it helps broaden the periphery on what’s simply good.
A meal becomes a feast. A hug becomes a celebration. An article becomes a breakthrough invention. A casual conversation becomes a TED Talk.
For me, this works more in hindsight than at the moment when we most need it. The more I’ve practiced this, the shorter my reaction time between “this sucks” and “I am so lucky I get to even do this”.
It’s the same exercise which grounds me when I get no views: I switch from “no one cares about my writing/video’’ to “I am so grateful I get to express myself this way’.
We are all privileged. It’s easy to go down the path of comparing forward without taking the time to pause and admit that things aren’t as bad and that maybe — maybe — we could do more for others than we may have previously admitted to ourselves.
What are you going to do about this now?
“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” ― Mahatma Gandhi