The Problem of Privilege


Hot girl/duckface privilege.

We all know the problem of privilege. Maybe its concrete definition escapes you, but trust me you know it, and you’ve likely experienced the problems associated with its presence. Privilege can be as big as job security, and as small as getting tipped better because you’re more conventionally attractive.

It’s usually a moot point, because its benefit is rarely appreciated, and, in some cases, not even comprehended. Privilege’s official definition looks something like “The unearned advantages given to members of a certain group”.(My lose paraphrase of some textbook i poked my pointy nose through recently). As noted by my girly italics, privilege has an exclusive entitlement tacked onto it. It is, in its rawest form, something we were born into, unbeknownst to us, a power we never asked for, and perhaps would rather not have.

This concept of unwanted power, then, is an extension, or a specific section, of privilege. In its corner, I am reminded of Toby Maguire in that kinda-older Spiderman movie (before he went all fancy-pants geek schmooze in Gatsby), and that actor with the weirdly square salt-and-pepper hair, whom Peter Parker calls Uncle Ben. Perplexed Peter is having his meltdown about having spidey-senses and Square hair uncle says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” And then croaks, only a few scenes later, leaving teen-spider tormented and confused. The nerve of fictional death.

Anyways, I’m sure some synapses blasted and you figured out what this now-irrelevant movie referred to: the power attached to privilege. Spidey didn’t ask to climb walls. And psssshhhh, spinning MJ into his infinite web because she always conveniently flies off buildings? Total coincidental perk. In fact, if you could ask him yourself how he feels about being part insect, Parker would probably throw up his arms in protest and say, “I’m just a science nerd. And I actually prefer myself in bifocals.” Privilege, unasked for.

Now that I’ve drugged much too far into what was a light example, let’s go back to reality. Privilege is this unwarranted circumstance, that furthers us (or at least fuels us to act) in some tangible way. The most apparent and deeply-felt example of this for me, and many other gen. Ys, is the capacity to hurt and be hurt. I could go into some hefty examples, but you know the gist. Dude X likes you but you don’t know why/how that even happened. He treats you like there’s an endless stream of diamonds falling out your butt and you can’t even remember his birthday and don’t understand why a half-drank 26erĀ isn’t the best pressie ever. Dude Z treats you like the “marked down for last sale” section of the grocery store. Mmm pre-packaged pasta? Take you today, toss you out tomorrow. (worst metaphor in history of blogs). GUESS WHICH ONE YOU HURT? You dick, you. How dare you succumb to human nature.

Privilege gave you the chance to chose/reject. Privilege gave asshole Z the opportunity to pass you up. Privilege has a cause and effect relationship with both being and causing hurt. And, if we stop and look at the ways we hurt others, as well as the ways in which our own hurt rears, we see fluidity. The ways I hurt are how I’ve been hurt…. and the way i allow myself to be mistreated is how I’ve been mistreated before. Justification? Maybe. But the cycle of violence speaks repeatedly to the idea of learned behavior, and hurting others is a variant of that.

I’m not saying anything exceptional or new, but now another infinitesimal(thanks mother, mother) piece of cyber-space has been occupied by my overdone thoughts. Think about the privileged spots you’ve been in. How can we lower ourselves in such a way that allows for these unwarranted spots to be filled with true credentials? Oh, you like me because I’m smart, funny, kind? Cool. Those things are real, and we’re on equal grounds. Let’s talk.