On a friend’s Facebook page, I recently read a comment claiming children shouldn’t be taught about the idea of privilege in school since it’s not provable that privilege exists. Here’s the thing, though: some people DO have privilege based on how they were born. That is a fact. I’m one of them.
I’m a straight, cisgender, white, financially stable male, and I have undeniable privilege because of it. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. If I am pulled over while driving, there’s pretty much no danger of my being murdered by a police officer. If I walk through a neighborhood or sit in my car or enter a restaurant, there’s pretty much no chance of a racist Karen calling the cops on me, or of my being arrested, beaten, tased or shot. I can pretty much guarantee I will never be raped, and I will never be the victim of systemic racism. As Jan. 6 proved, I could even take part in a terrorist insurrection, and both the media and politicians would refuse to label me a terrorist. And, ironically, because I’m a white dude, people are more likely to pay attention to this post than they would if I were any other color, or if I were female–I even have the privilege of decrying my own privilege.
What’s more, if my family faces an unexpected hardship, I have the money to get us through it–and even if I don’t, banks will almost certainly float me a loan. If I apply for a job and I land an interview, I have a higher chance of being offered the position than others do once the employer sees my face and hears my voice. Since I don’t flirt with men, I face very little risk of being gay-bashed by homophobic bigots. No one is actively trying to prevent me from voting or take away my reproductive rights. And since I look traditionally male, I don’t have to worry about being beaten up for using what some might perceive as the wrong bathroom.
These are all privileges I have due to how I was born–and because of who I am, the world is far more likely to bend over backwards to help or protect me. Those who aren’t straight, cisgender, white, financially stable males have no such guarantees of safety and security. It sucks that this is how the world works, but it IS how the world works. I hate it and I wish I could change it, because I did nothing to deserve this privilege. My skin color, gender identity, birth sex and orientation are all innate–I neither chose them, nor did I work for them. Those who don’t share the same innate qualities as me are at an undeniable societal disadvantage, and often end up physically and emotionally harmed because of it.
So to me, it’s vital that children learn about privilege at a young age, and that they be made to understand the underlying causes and the damaging consequences of a privilege-based world. It’s the only chance we, as a society, have of reducing the dangers that those who currently don’t have privilege face. If people pretend privilege doesn’t exist, or if they just accept that it will always exist, then the privileged will retain the upper hand. And believe me, speaking as someone who has the privilege, we don’t deserve it.