For the Betterment of Others: Uncovering Privilege
In Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian’s Uncovering Privilege series, participants are invited to share about an experience (or experiences) in which they realized that they had privilege in a certain aspect or aspects of their social identities, what they have chosen to do with that information, and what their journey has been like since then.
Today’s entry is from an anonymous contributor on white and class privilege.
My first realization and awareness of my own privilege happened in my late 20s. I was taking a sociology class and the issue of privilege came up. I began to see all the ways in which the accident of my position at birth had impacted my life, provided my opportunities denied to many others, and the ways I had used my privilege without even being aware of it.
This awareness was brought into stark contrast with the discrimination I had seen my husband experience and the ways my children, half-jewish, would probably experience at some point in their lives.
Since my realization and awareness, I admit I’ve consciously used my privilege in certain ways. Primarily, I know I “look innocent” and sometimes speed or do other things with little worry of “getting in trouble” or pulled over. However, I have also worked to consciously use my privilege for the gain and benefit of others.
As a clinical social worker, I have had the opportunity to work with people who are intensely vulnerable and underprivileged. I’ve used my position and understanding of the culture of those who have wealth and even greater privilege then I do, to speak to funders and volunteers to donate money or fund projects that would serve clients.
I’ve worked to listen to what my clients need and then gear programs and funding sources to their specific needs, rather than projects those in need aren’t asking for nor appear to want.
I believe the greatest change to come from my awareness of privilege, has come in the way I parent my children and interact with my spouse. The simple facts of my nuclear family give all of us privileges the rest of my family are not aware of. I have a spouse who respects me and supports me and co-parents equally, and my children have the stability and status of having two involved parents.
This status has actually been said out loud to us at different points in their school experiences. My husband shook his head, but I recognized it right away. We were treated better because we were a married couple and all had the same last name.
I go out of my way to discuss discrimination, opportunity, and issues of privilege with my children. Despite how much we may not have in comparison to many, I point out in concrete ways how much more we have then so many others.
I often think I’m not doing enough, I could do more, I’m using this too much for my own gain. And, I probably am. Writing this has been helpful in seeing ways I can be better and more proactive in making sure my privileges and the privileges of my family are used for the betterment of others.
I am actively seeking submissions for this series
If you’re interested in participating, and would like to contribute to this series and help ensure it’s growth, here are some things you can do.
1. Take some time to reflect on these prompts: Share about an experience in which you realized that you had privilege in a certain aspect or aspects of your identity in terms of different social groups you are a member of. What helped you to recognize that privilege? What have you chosen to do with that information? What has your journey been like since then?
2. Write your responses and send them to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by filling out the contact form here. I may contact you to ask follow-up questions that might be included in the final post, as well as if there were any photos or social media handles you might want to include in your submission as well.
If you would you like to remain anonymous or have some other details about your specific identity removed, let me know that in the details of your message and I will act accordingly.
If writing isn’t your preferred method of communication, you can send a link to a podcast, video, recorded message, photos, art, etc.
3. Share your submission, and this introductory post as widely as you can with others whom you think would also be interested in participating.
We are all both teachers and learners, and I’d love to hear your stories. I am hoping that this effort will serve as a source of connection and support as we navigate our individual, yet connected struggles and growth.
Here’s to “waking up”.
From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins, MSW