Privilege. What is it really, who has it and who does not?
This was a subject I explored with Disrupt Yourself Podcast guest Luvvie Ajayi. Ajayi is a renowned blogger, social critic and pop culture aficionado who makes her voice heard for good on her Awesomely Luvvie website—and elsewhere.
The topic of privilege is especially interesting to me because it so closely mirrors the problem of entitlement. Recognizing our privilege and the ways in which it might lead to feelings of entitlement is an important part of successful personal disruption.
Ajayi is an African American woman; she is an immigrant from Nigeria. She is unafraid of being an outspoken witness to societal problems and injustice. I took advantage of the opportunity to have her weigh in on the subject of privilege. Here are some of her insights from our conversation:
“Why do we hear ‘privileged’ and feel like it means that [people] haven’t worked for anything they’ve gotten?” People do earn things, after all. “I always want to get people to switch that idea—that privilege is more of the things that we have or that we were born with that we have nothing to do with.”
She describes exercises she did in university classes, when she was a peer counselor at the University of Illinois – Champaign/Urbana. The outcome of these exercises could be surprising.
“Some of my white classmates were behind me….I have class privilege because I’ve never been poor. I’m Christian, I am straight, I am able bodied, I am educated.”
I typically think of privilege as being determined by big identifiers like race or gender. While those are definitely in the mix in large ways, as Ajayi described privilege I became aware that it can be much more nuanced. She reminded me that there’s a difference between having things we’ve earned—not privilege—and having things we haven’t done anything to deserve.
“Privilege means you have a start…You are in a starting line that you didn’t even walk to, to get there. You got there because of something you had nothing to do with. When we talk about white privilege, a lot of people who are white are also straight, are also able-bodied, they’re also Christian—they are walking with so much power and get a lot of opportunities and they take credit for it as a personal thing.”
And that’s when privilege morphs into entitlement. As always, there’s more to learn on the podcast.
Resources Mentioned in the Show and Transcript
I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi
Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder
Warmth of Other Sons by Isabel Wilkerson