• Race to a Cure Authors

Checking Your Privilege

In 2017, the iconic "Privilege/Class/Social Inequalities Explained in a $100 Race - Please Watch to the End. Thanks" video was released on YouTube. It features a group of students all at the same starting line, racing to win $100. However, before they could get running, the coach called out different variables such as "take two steps forward if you had access to a private tutor" and "take two steps forward if you've never had to help mom or dad with the bill." By the time the race began, everyone was at a different starting point.

Image is courtesy of Youtube

These comments were supposed to represent the concept of privilege, which is defined as "a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed by a particular person or a restricted group of people beyond the advantages of most" and "the unearned and mostly unacknowledged societal advantage that a restricted group of people has over another group." (Dictionary.com) This article explores the various kinds of privilege in youth and why they must be acknowledged.

It is essential to realize that privilege is not a factor that makes life easier, but it doesn't make it harder. It is also important to note that society, upon first glance, will view a person holistically, so while an individual may be privileged in one area, they may be underprivileged in others.

Types of Privilege

  • Ability: Ability privilege means being able to live without assistance, being able to get dressed, go to the bathroom, to eat independently. It means public spaces like stores, restaurants, public transportation, and sidewalks are no hassle. It means the ability to navigate social situations comfortably, not be afraid of any preexisting stigma or stereotype for a physical or mental disability. It means being represented in media, literature, and film and walking into a room of people who look like you. 

  • Class: Socio-economic privilege means not having to worry about electrical, water, and grocery bills. It means having connections that open opportunities for schools and jobs. It means working a job and living a life that isn't frowned upon, and it means not having to turn to alternative means to gain money. 

  • Education: Education privilege can mean many things and is connected to class privilege. It can mean being able to go to a high school or mean being able to afford a private, specialized high school. It can mean being able to attend post-secondary institutions, most likely leading to higher-paying jobs and prestige.

  • Gender: In patriarchy, gender privilege means being born a man. It means being represented in leadership, business, and other similar vocations. It means being safer, and it means being represented in perspective.

  • Gender Identity: Gender identity privilege means identifying with one's assigned sex at birth. It means not having to question who you are or have others question who you are. It means not having to tell people with which gender you identify. It means being represented in the media and feeling safe at home and in public.

  • Racial: Racial privilege means "[the distribution of] power, privilege and benefits unequally among groups in societies and countries in our world." (MediaSmarts, n.d.) It means being able to have a pronounceable name, get job interviews, and see yourself on television. It means not fearing racism or the verbal or physical harassment that can come with it. It means not being the only one of your race in a room and never having to take three extra steps because of your colour. We recommend you read this article for further information about racial privilege. 

  • Sexuality: Sexuality privilege, in a heteronormative society, means being straight. It means not having to come out and make a big deal of things, and it means automatic acceptance from friends and family. It means not having to question who you are. It means being positively represented in the media and being able to talk about preferences openly. It means rights never be taken away.

  • Passing: Passing privilege means being able to portray oneself as another group, which allows the privilege of said group to be passed on.

(List adapted from https://mediasmarts.ca/diversity-media/privilege-media/forms-privilege)

Things to Acknowledge

At the end of the video, the coach says, "We don't want to recognize that we've been given a head start, but the reality is that we have. Now, there's no excuse. They still have to run that race. You still have to run that race. But, whoever wins this $100, I think it'd be extremely foolish of you not to utilize that and learn more about somebody else's story."

And he's right. Recognizing your privilege and recognizing those who may not have it is the essential first step to mending that gap, in addition to acknowledging: 

  • The relativity of privilege

  • Systematic injustice is good for no one.

  • You don't need to feel guilty or defensive when discussing privilege.

  • Consider ways in which to equalize power, actual action steps. Consider reading this article for further information. 

(List adapted from https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/why-its-important-to-think-about-privilege-and-why/)

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

Article Author: Linda Duong

Article Editors: Valerie Shirobokov, Maria Giroux