Jocelyn’s Jottings: Let’s talk privilege

There was recently a story about a university campus that put up posters that said “Check your privilege.”

The poster described privilege as “unearned access to social power based on membership in a dominant social group.”

It also said that becoming aware of privilege should not be viewed as a burden or source of guilt but rather an opportunity to learn and be responsible so that we can work towards a more just and inclusive world.

People were upset about this poster.

So, I want to talk about privilege.

Have you ever chosen to wear something modest instead of the outfit that you love because you are worried about walking down the street at night and getting targeted, harassed or even assaulted?

If no, then you are privileged.

Have you ever had someone who has more power than you, either physically or in the job hierarchy, ask inappropriate questions, touch you or invade your personal space?

If no, then you are privileged.

Have you ever felt that you were treated differently because of the colour of your skin? Did you get looked over for a promotion? Did you not get a job? Did someone make a racist joke?

If no, then you are privileged.

Have you ever been unable to do something because you can’t afford to?

If no, then you are privileged.

Have you ever felt left out of a social group because you have a physical or mental disability?

If no, then you are privileged.

And these are only a few examples.

The idea of “checking your privilege” is difficult, because those who are privileged rarely feel that they are. They don’t

‘see the benefits.’

But I do.

The religious holidays that I celebrated with my family growing up corresponded with national holidays from both work and school.

My parents saved a large amount of money in an RESP for myself and my two younger siblings’ post-secondary education.

I didn’t have to work while I was in university and I don’t have student loans. Because of those two things I had many more opportunities to make friends and go on adventures in university and now that I am out, I don’t have that debt holding me back. I have more freedom to live and work where I want.

I am cisgender. Which means that my gender identity corresponds with my birth sex. I don’t worry about where I will go to the bathroom or which change room I will go to at the pool or the gym. There is a space for me wherever I go.

Everywhere I travel there is someone I can communicate with, someone speaks English, and I know I don’t have to worry about it.

I was born in Canada. The only paperwork I have to worry about is applying for a passport. I can build a family and career without worrying about visas, work or education permits expiring.

I can go to any restaurant, even those without a wheelchair ramp, because I can take the stairs without trouble.

I live my life relatively worry free because of these privileges. I have advantages because of these privileges and more that I am unaware of.

That’s the thing with privilege. If you don’t have troubles, why would you be aware of them?