When I was growing up, I was quite aware of the privilege I had. I was conscious of the fact that I had the opportunity to go to school and eat three warm meals every day, unlike the children I saw begging on the streets from the comfort of my parents’ car. For most of us, this is how privilege is first and most apparent or visible. However, it can arise in many non-monetary and invisible forms. This is what makes privilege so difficult to spot.
Because privilege is derived due to the way our societies are structured, there are various ways to be privileged; Male, race, cis (meaning non-trans), language, sexual, caste, able-body, and religious privilege – among others – are all examples of the ways in which we can experience the world around us differently to those who don’t necessarily follow the guidelines set by society’s “ruling class.” This class comprises of the folks with the most privilege, those who control our institutions and decide what is and isn’t acceptable. Our privileges, in general, help us access better and more opportunities, making life just that much easier. Here, I feel it’s important to note that though we can be privileged in certain aspects of life, we can also be oppressed in others. Privilege is complicated that way. But no matter what privilege we do experience, there are approaches we can take to dismantle the status quo and create a more equal, inclusive society.
1. Practice mindfulness
Read more. Listen intently. Observe carefully. These silent methods of mindfulness can help you gain a global perspective of the world around you. By learning about others’ experiences, we can become more aware of their ways of life and the difficulties they face. It opens our eyes to all the ways we experience privilege and helps us gain an appreciation for different cultures through inculcating a sense of empathy.
2. If you see something, say something
Notice someone, for example, mocking a minority race’s accent? Or a friend making a sexist joke? Don’t just stay silent. It may be frightening, but confronting the perpetrator and standing up for someone else – even if you don’t belong to their oppressed group – is the best way to communicate that something is unacceptable. When you have privilege, it’s safer for you to call out a bigot because you are unlikely to experience the same trauma and backlash as the victim. A small act of bravery can make a big difference.
3. Comfort is key
If you’re better equipped to approach a victim rather than a perpetrator, please do. A few words of encouragement can mean the world to someone who experiences bias or oppression on a daily basis. Whether it’s asking someone if they’re okay or being a shoulder to cry on, comforting a victim can be a great way to let them know you care and be more inclusive.
Volunteer with an organisation that believes in inclusivity or share a social media post about a problematic issue (even if it doesn’t personally affect you). Though you may be afraid to voice or act on your beliefs, especially at a time when it seems so difficult to manage the emotional labour that comes with being politically active, your silence only adds to the noise of exclusivity. From making a donation to a social initiative you believe in to rallying your friends to participate in a clean-up drive with you, every little action counts.