Privilege is invisible to those who have it

I recently witnessed a scene between a beggar and a well-suited man.

The beggar was asking the business guy money while he was withdrawing his cash. The latter started screaming at the beggar: “I’ve worked hard all my life to have the money I own now. And you, lazy bastard, what do you do besides asking people for money?!”. And he walked away towards his beautiful sport car, waving with his money to the beggar.

This scene shocked me: a true example of a lack of empathy and a lack of realising the privileges some of us have.

Understanding our privileges

Understanding our privileges is difficult because we are used to have them. This is typical behaviour of the human being: taking what one has for granted and only realising what one has once it’s gone. Privileges however are not easy to lose. We have them, or we don’t.

Privileges are therefore invisible to those who have them. But take some time to think about your privileges. Could you sum up some of them? Let me help you.

  • Does one or both of your parents have a college degree?
  • Have you always assumed you’ll go to college?
  • Are you able to move through the world without fear of sexual assault?
  • Did you ever have to skip a meal or were hungry because there was not enough money to buy food?
  • Were you ever discouraged from an activity because of your race, class, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation?
  • Do you have more than fifty books in your household?
  • Did your parents tell you that you can be anything you want to be?

And this is just a very small list of the privileges some of us have, and others don’t.

The link below shows a video derived from the exercise The Privilege Walk in which I recently participated. That exercise opened my eyes and made me realise that within the same university, there is a huge difference in privileges between students: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4K5fbQ1-zps

Stop judging, because not everyone has the same privileges as you

Privileges make a difference in determining someone’s future, in what a person will become, and how hard he will have to fight to reach his goal. However, as we tend to forget our privileges, we judge others by thinking that they had the same opportunities we had to be the person we are now. Nothing, however, is further from the truth. We are all different and that means that we cannot judge someone else if we don’t know what that person has been through or which privileges that person didn’t have.

So, let’s not judge the beggar, the cleaning lady, the waste collector, or whomever you may meet in your business or private live. What do you gain by judging them? What do you gain by feeling superior? I would say that we need to understand their stories before having an opinion about them. And if we don’t know them, then why bothering having an opinion about them? Let’s focus instead on things that really matter, like how to better yourself personally and professionally.

 

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