I’m just starting to learn about privilege in a social justice class, . I found this article recently called “The Distress of the Privileged.” It is written more so to minoritized groups, but reading it helped me understand my privilege and the way I should and should not express it… Especially in cases where I feel privileged distress despite desiring social justice.
I am a privileged person with respect to most societal categories: white, cis-gendered, able-bodied, rich compared to the world, middle-class in Canada, and while female, I am female in a part of the world where that fact does not minoritize me as significantly as it would in many other places.
Given this incredible degree of privilege, I am comfortable the majority of the time, and more importantly it is incredibly easy to find a space in which I feel comfortable. This is due to the fact that having privilege implies that the social group I belong to is valued more highly by society than other social groups in that category.
As a person who claims to be for social justice, this is incredibly difficult to accept, and it’s a struggle to know how to react in the face of my own positionality (meaning personal privilege or minoritization). “Is Everyone Really Equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education” talks about just this. To be “for” social justice requires constant self-reflection about one’s own positionality in social groups, in addition to strategic action that stems from that self-awareness to challenge social injustice.
This self-reflection must be an ongoing lifelong process, but it is only useful when used to enact change. Conversely, social change is only effective and appropriate with an understanding, acceptance, and use of one’s own positionality.
I highly recommend getting your hands on this book (by Ozlem Sensoy and Robin Diangelo) and reading at least the preface. We also read the prologue, first chapter, and appendix which were equally fascinating.
Anyone interested in social justice, I also recommend watching this short video “Stop the Clash of Civilizations“.