figwhitemensffffff.u2I had a short dialogue on Facebook this week about “privilege,” and I though I’d take those comments as a starting point for a blog post. I think dialogues about privilege are critically important, and my views have changed much over time. I expect they will keep evolving too. At one point, I’d have said, privilege simply is power,and it is about who has and who doesn’t have power. But today, I think that is far too general of a simplification.

Having privilege isn’t by nature either good or bad, it just is what it is. I didn’t choose to be born a cis white male. I just am. I can either acknowledge the privilege that is associated with cis white male, and use it for good, or I can be a dick and pretend I’m all that and everyone should be thrilled I exist. We can’t stop having privilege. The dynamics that make it be, weren’t turned on like a light switch. Privilege becomes negative when those who have privilege don’t acknowledge it and act as if it doesn’t exist. Then many are harmed by it. We can however begin to dismantle the inequity of privilege- through conscious effort to empower and enable those who have less power or agency.

And for however much privilege I have as a cis white male, I am without privilege as a gay person. Privilege isn’t some single dividing line between the haves and have nots. Although that is how it is often portrayed. It is far more complex than that.

While we cannot stop privilege, like we can turn off a light, we can dismantle the power inequities that perpetuate privilege. Dismantling anything is a slow arduous task that will require clear focus, patience, and constant attention. The product of dismantling inequities should be clear. When everyone is empowered, we have a richer culture.

There is another way, that privilege can cause harm or be used as a weapon. When one group (or person) tries and demonize or dismiss another because of privilege. This is a form of othering that harms all in the process. It may feel like a way to confront another’s privilege, but in reality it is a bullying technique. A person feels as if they have less power so they pull the privilege card.

A last way privilege is harmful is when people try to analyze who does and doesn’t have privilege and then rank accordingly. Privilege isn’t a net sum thing that can be quantified as if it is the same for all persons. While there is privilege associated with cis white male, there is also privilege associated with economic level of success. And privilege associated with male. It’s an easy trap to think all of this lines upon a scale where a trans person of color(TPOC) is at the lowest rung and cis white male at the highest. But not all cis white males have the same association with privilege, nor do all TPOC have the same. There are some generalities, but dismantling privilege is most successful, when we see it more personally rather than generally.

Dismantling privilege happens when any person explores their own ideas and attitudes to see what, if any within themselves is associated with privilege.

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