By Claire Ward
noun: a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most
Chances are, you know the word “privilege” first hand. The social theory that certain advantages and special rights are only available to a particular group. Most of us at Dexter High School can point out the many privileges present in our lives every day, the many privileged groups we belong in. We live in a relatively wealthy community, with an almost completely white population, filled with a common and accepted religion. Rich privilege, white privilege, religious privilege. We are blessed to live lives that grant us these privileges. Unfortunately, many people choose to deny or ignore their privileges when the power status they’re given puts them in a place to benefit others. Maybe we all need to figure out how to use our privilege to the advantage of others, not just to help out ourselves. Here’s a little privilege check for you:
- Are you white? Congratulations, you are now significantly safer from racial hate crimes, suspicion, and discrimination due to the color of your skin. White privilege means a solid sense of safety each time you walk out of your house and not being watched while browsing in a store by those who “aren’t racist” but never throw side glances at their white patrons.
- Are you male? Male privilege is one that is felt and seen every single day. Being male let’s you feel secure when walking alone, whether at night or in a parking garage; it lets you say “no” to unwanted approaches without risking harassment. Your gender places you in a world that puts you on a high pedestal, one that gives you full pay, while your female counterparts make around 78 cents.
- Are you heterosexual? Being straight puts you in a different world than those in the LGBT community. Free from hate,and able to form any kind of relationship with whomever you please in public without harassment.
- Are you cisgender? As a cisgender person (one who identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth) you are protected from a world of hate, one that lets people think they have the right to look up skirts to decide if someone can use the bathroom. Being cisgender automatically lets people trust your intentions when you go to the bathroom or walk down the street. Here’s the thing: those who do not have the privilege of being cisgender don’t want to do anything but use the restroom or walk in safety. They don’t have the bad intentions they are labelled with. You however, are free from this trouble.
- Are you wealthy? Having a significant amount of expendable income gives you so many opportunities that hundreds of millions do not have. Tropical vacations to 5-star hotels, a new car on your 16th birthday, a closet of vineyard vines and lululemon. Most importantly, being wealthy shields you from dirty looks, from being told “You can’t afford that,” and from many hardships lower classes feel. You’re given a college education with less trouble than most and granted the ability to get away with more than those with lesser than you. Rich privilege is a serious privilege many people overlook.
- Are you Christian? If so, you identify religiously with over half of the United States. This advantage clears you of religious persecution and discrimination. Being Christian, people are not scared of your religion, nor do they classify all that practice it as terrorists or threats to the safety of the US.
- Are you healthy? The well-being of our bodies is something we tend to take for granted, including mental health. As mental health seems to be on the decline, with one in ten Americans diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives, we tend to overlook the stigmatization behind mental health. Those facing disorders go up against a world of disbelief and discrimination.
So how do you check out? Seven out of seven? Seeing privilege laid out like this can be a reality check of sorts. Being aware of your privilege gives you the chance to work towards using it to help others rather than ignore or add to the discrimination.
So next time you go out and see someone being harassed for their sexuality or gender, step in and help them out. Donate your paycheck or time to a charity like the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County, or Ele’s Place which work to help those in our community and provide safe environments for all people (the Ozone House, Alpha House, and Safe House are other great organizations in our community). Tell your group of popular kid “friends” to chill on the racist or sexist jokes. Every student at DHS is blessed with the chance to help others. It’s time we all start acting on this, instead of sitting quietly in the back.