There’s a grown up version of cooties, and we all have it to some degree.
Yes, somehow the meaning of the word privilege has ended up seriously twisted. You tell someone that they might be privileged and those are fightin’ words. Call them bougie, they probably nod their heads in agreement. But call them privileged, and they’ll deny or point fingers at other, “more privileged” individuals or do just about anything to avoid being tagged as having privilege. And instead of my pointing out that whenever someone becomes outraged after confronted with the possibility of examining their privilege and how much that outrage shows that they are absolutely dripping in privilege and are blinded by it, I’m going to claim my privilege (see what I did there?).
So, let me say right now: I am privileged, and I plan to talk about it.
I am a biracial/multiracial black woman. For me, this means that I am light skinned with soft features and “good” hair. It means that people will comment on my eloquence and how articulate I am. It means that people will mistake me for white when I talk to them on the phone. It means that I was frequently the exception for black guys who never dated black women, as well as the exception for white men who never dated black women. Hell, I was the safe black woman for pretty much every race or ethnicity who wanted to prove just how open-minded they really were.
I am attractive. Need I say more?
I am also educated—well educated. I went to one of the top universities in this country for undergrad. I am applying to go to law school next year. I have the opportunities that come from an elite education, which include the very talented people I know within my network.
I grew up in a two parent home. I did not shuffle back and forth between two families or know what it was like to be raised by a single parent. For most of my life, my parents were, as far as I could tell at the time, pretty happy despite having me in their mid teens. My parents had lots of financial troubles, but I always had everything I needed, and most of the time, everything I wanted.
I am a hetero black woman married to a hetero white man, which elevates my status and opens doors. When I am with my husband out in public, I am less likely to be seen as a threat and not as frequently followed in stores. I am also frequently not assumed to be with him, but I digress.
I have a form of reproductive privilege inasmuch as I have the knowledge, insurance, and financial means to decide when and if I want to have children (mostly).
I am employed and have been able to find employment every time I sought it. I was underemployed and underpaid at times but still employed with options.
I live above the poverty line, I have health insurance, I can afford all of my bills, I can take vacations, and so on.
I am an able bodied American living in America who speaks English without an accent and people will almost never suspect me of being a terrorist (damn you, TSA!) or an “illegal alien.”
There is a flipside to most of these things, but that is not what this post is about. I know I left out lots of stuff for brevity, but I did not list thin, neurotypical, or fertility privilege because those are things I do not have.
This may seem like one giant #humblebrag, and I guess it is, but acknowledging your privilege is similar to counting your blessings. We all have blessings/privileges in our lives. It is naive and disingenuous to believe otherwise. I’m not sure when privilege or even checking your privilege became so awful. To me it seems like being self-aware. Unchecked privilege can be crippling. Sure, I can have an opinion about things that I have not experienced, but when faced with the reality of the experience of someone who has dealt with issues I have not, why wouldn’t I want to check my privilege to see if perhaps I may have erred in my view? Why wouldn’t I want the opportunity to grow?
When I hear other WoC talk about experiences that I don’t have to deal with, such as the prejudice and discrimination tossed at women with darker skin than me, I hurt for them. I am sorry for what they have to go through, and I will do what I can to end such discrimination, BUT I am glad that I do not have to endure what they do. I recognize my light-skinned privilege and am grateful that my life is not any harder and that I do not have any fewer privileges.
I am thankful for the privileges I have and will help all those that I can because of them. I am more than happy to acknowledge the privileges that I have and happy to shut up and take a seat to explore the full extent of their impact when necessary. But I don’t want to give up my privilege. I’m keeping my cooties.