Taking Inventory of Our Privilege

If we want to be effective allies, we need to be mindful of our own identities. We need to take inventory of the specific social systems we belong to, so we can bring that awareness into our interactions with others…particularly as we engage with those who are marginalized in the same areas we are privileged.

We can begin by going through some of the major categories of privilege listed in Monday’s post. But all of our identities are complex, and their are dozens of ways we personally experience privilege or oppression, to varying degrees.

You can also use something like this online assessment. Keep in mind, this is a quiz from BuzzFeed. It’s designed to be quick and introductory, not to fully inform us on the nuances of privilege. But it’s a great place to start.

When inventorying our privilege, it can be helpful to keep a few things in mind:

  • Privilege isn’t absolute. It is always shifting, because it depends on context. It’s about being more or less advantaged compared to another group.
  • All of us have some parts of our identity that are privileged, and other parts that are oppressed.
  • It’s usually easier for us to “see” the ways we are oppressed. The system of privilege actually blinds us to our individual privilege.
  • It’s not unusual for privileged groups to believe they are actually the ones being oppressed. Let me say this to my fellow white people: We are privileged. This is not up for debate.
  • We benefit from privilege whether or not we are aware of it or agree with it. We can’t not be privileged in those ways. But we can work to extend that same privilege to others.
  • Just because we are privileged in some ways does not “cancel out” or invalidate the ways we are oppressed.
  • Neither does our privilege erase or make irrelevant any hard work we may have done.
  • The different parts of our identity—the different social systems we belong to—are not separate. They interact and inform each other. This is called intersectionality.

There’s still so much more to unpack on the topic! But for today, the important point is to take the next step toward self-awareness of our personal privilege.

What did you learn about yourself today? Do you feel yourself inwardly resisting or pushing back against these ideas? Where do you disagree or still have questions? Did you take the BuzzFeed assessment? What was your score? Do you feel that number adequately represents the amount of privilege you carry?

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