Recently, I was involved in a discussion about the privilege inherent in the ability to homeschool. In order to homeschool successfully, one must have quite a few advantages such as financial means, stable mental health, and access to resources. That is not to say that there aren’t homeschooling parents who have varying degrees of such advantages. I’m a low-income, Autistic homeschooling mom with intense anxiety that I’m medicated for. I can homeschool because I have a partner who works and helps, a support network that can fill in when he can’t, graduate level education which has given me resources and also the ability to find resources I don’t yet have, and the means to obtain the medications I need for stable mental health. Homeschooling isn’t just the realm of well-off, white moms. But, every homeschooling family has advantages that make this lifestyle possible.
That got me thinking about other kinds of privilege I don’t really notice that I have and what that means for the way I’m impacting others. So many people I come across are resistant to accepting that they have privilege, often because they believe admitting it means they must be bad people. However, assessing privilege should not be an exercise in determining who is guilty and who is not. That’s not the point. Assessing privilege helps us recognize our responsibility in reshaping our respective cultures to genuinely serve and uplift everyone. We are presently far, FAR away from any reality resembling that ideal for so many reasons, most of which involve the oppressive authority of White Supremacy Culture and exploitative social class divisions.
Acknowledging Privilege We Don’t Realize We Have
One way we can undermine both White Supremacy Culture and social class divisions is by knowing the kinds of privilege we have and allowing that knowledge to help us empathize with others and recognize where our perspectives can lead to harm. “Bootstrap mentality” is one such example. The idea that working hard leads to success, as long as you’re doing it right, ignores the real reasons people are not successful. People have to contend with challenges such as lack of access to information or education, inability to generate the resources necessary, unavailability of support structures, and the like. Many of the hardest working people have the fewest resources to show for it. Just because one person is able to overcome their personal challenges doesn’t mean that someone with similar circumstances will be able to do the same. That’s just not how life works.
Two lesser acknowledged benefits of privilege we should observe are the presence of choice and the absence of barriers. Privilege bestows choice predicated on unequal circumstances. For instance, people do not choose to be born into wealth but, once they are, their options and choices in other areas of life are apt to increase. Privilege also shields us from barriers that others face. Considering again those who are born into wealth, will they ever have to navigate the structure of public assistance which is designed to conserve resources and limit pay outs to people who are barely scraping by? Possible, but doubtful. This is why lived experience is so important to understanding the reality of the lives of people who do not have the same advantages we do.
It can be difficult to recognize privilege when we all have our own struggles. We can be privileged in some areas and experience significant challenges in others. The balance of privilege and struggle matters. Those for whom this balance leans heavily toward struggle need more support and consideration, more relief, in order to prosper. This is where we can all benefit each other. By harnessing our privilege and using it to advantage others, we shift the balance and create a more just society for all of us.
We’ve all likely heard of white privilege, but there are other areas that aren’t as commonly discussed. With the help of my readers, I’ve compiled a short list of privilege points we don’t talk about enough. How many of these examples of privilege apply to you?
- I can clean my body every day.
- I had stable housing as a child. Bonus: I have financial resources now that cushion me from becoming unhoused.
- Chronic physical pain does not significantly impact my quality of life.
- I can seek healthcare when something is wrong.
- I have reliable power and temperature control in my home.
- I am able to comfortably sleep through the night.
- I can afford to eat a diversity of foods that contain all the nutrients a human body needs.
- My parents had stable physical and mental health when they were raising me.
- I was not spanked or otherwise abused as a child.
- My partner(s) and I can be together freely in public with no fear for our safety.
- My neurotype is dominant in my culture.
- I see people who look like me in positions of influence.
- The majority of my country’s primary and secondary schools require students to take classes on the history of my people as told in our own voices.
- I am cisgender and heterosexual. Bonus: I am a cishet man.
- I do not have to use paid time off or forfeit pay in order to observe the holy days of my religion.
- I am an adult with all the rights and freedoms afforded to adults in my country.
- I can make personal decisions for myself without anyone else’s approval.
- I have never been removed from my first family to be adopted or placed into foster care.
- My parents were married when I was growing up.
- I communicate in a way and with a language that most people in my country understand. Bonus: I am not discriminated against for the way I communicate.
- I can call the police for help without fear of being killed.
- My personal qualities and traits are not pathologized.
- I can easily get enough clean water to satisfy my thirst.
- The adults in my household do not have to work more than one job each to meet the needs of our household. Bonus: At least one adult is able to stay home.
ACCESS AND OPTIONS
- I am not expected to purchase two seats on for a flight due to the limited size of each seat.
- I have a high school diploma. Bonus: I have education beyond high school.
- I have the psychological, financial, and educational ability to homeschool my children.
- I can afford clothing. Bonus: I can afford clothes that fit my body.
- Vaccines are available to me and I can refuse them if I wish.
- I have internet access. Bonus: I have a computer in my home.
- I have a committed support system. Bonus: I have contacts and mentors who can help me access resources, information, and networks.
- I can read. Bonus: There is an easily accessible library in my community.
- I have a car and can drive it.
- I can access any public space I want to visit.
- I can boycott stores like Amazon and Walmart without risking hunger.
- I do not have to pre-plan my grocery shopping trips.
- I have a job. Bonus: My job provides paid leave and other benefits.
- I am able to do my job from my home.
- My full-time job allows me to pay my basic bills without regular assistance and without going bankrupt.
- I can access natural, green spaces without much effort.
And, one of the most significant aspects of unknown privilege is simply the ability to say, “I do not believe in privilege” and really mean it.
Check out these articles to learn more about how to use your privilege for good!