If you’re a Buzzfeed fan like the rest of the world, you maybe saw this quiz recently about privilege.
You can take it here if you want: How Privileged Are You?
I took it for the same reason I take many of their quizzes –because one of my sorta friends posted it on Facebook and I like to know what an arbitrary quiz based loosely on facts has to say about who I am as a person.
I’m weird like that.
And, apparently, so are a ton of other people I know who were eagerly sharing their results to this particular quiz in the thread that they discovered it in.
It was a mixed group of friends with a variety of scores –some were low, others were quite high.
I scored a 69.
Which, according to this quiz means that I am “quite privileged”.
I’ve been knowing about the relative lap of luxury I find myself living in on a daily basis.
And that’s not to brag (because, seriously, there’s nothing here to brag about), it’s just to say that I am well aware that I am not someone who lives an unprivileged life.
When it comes down to it, I have very little to throw a pity party about, and I like to keep that fact in the forefront of my mind.
I know that our income sits us well above the poverty line, that my Master’s degree makes me more educated and employable than many. I’m aware that neither my sexuality, nor my religious practices are ever feared or questioned. I’m married. To a man. Legally. And we both gender identify as our biology indicated we would at birth. I am American, as are my parents and their parents’ parents before them. I speak only English. I live in the suburbs. I own not one, but two businesses. We have health insurance, two cars, and a home we own. And, despite being a woman of African descent, I hold elected positions in my community and rarely feel disrespected, discounted, or excluded because of either of those things.
I am privileged.
Not in the white male in America way, obviously, but in so many other ways.
And I have been for as long as I can remember.
Even in the very early years, when my parents were struggling to make ends meet (a time I vaguely remember), they were struggling to make ends meet in a middle class neighborhood, as a traditional, Christian family -husband, wife, two kids, a dog, in sunny California.
For me it’s about two things: gratitude and accountability.
I aim to be grateful for all of my blessings, and I desire to use what I’m given to put goodness into the world.
So I own my privilege, and I make every attempt to keep it in mind as I navigate this world. I know that my thoughts, opinions, and decisions are impacted by it. I know that when I meet new people, experience new things, travel to new destinations, or just wake up in the morning and watch the news, it colors my perspective, influences my behavior, and impacts my life.
My privilege is not erased by being a member of historically oppressed societal groups –meaning that the fact that I am a black woman doesn’t mean I’m not also privileged. I may be less privileged than others, I may suffer from prejudice and discrimination others have never faced, but that doesn’t mean that my oppression is more important than anyone else’s, or my privilege nonexistent.
So I work to ensure that it doesn’t taint my ability to support and uplift others with struggles that are different than my own by acknowledging it and accepting that it clouds my judgement and alters my perspective.
And then, I take time to examine my thoughts and beliefs to determine how I might alter them to make me more, as they say, woke.
I do this for myself and my children.
With them, being young biracial boys growing quickly into men, I face a challenge. For them, overestimating their privilege could be the difference between life and death, and underestimating it potentially makes them an actionless bystander who is nearly as guilty as those who cause it.
I want them to learn to embrace the power they have while also being cognizant of how others relate (or fail to relate) to them as young brown boys in America. I want them to realize that overestimating their privilege could be the difference between life and death, just like underestimating it means they could miss an opportunity to be a change.
But, most of all, I want them to remain grounded, to appreciate the various gifts they have been afforded, to understand their fortune as it relates to others in the world, and to not take things for granted.
And I want them to understand the role privilege plays in their lives.
I don’t want them to feel guilty about it, I want them to feel grateful, emphatic, gracious, and empowered.
Here’s how we accomplish that in our home.
Teaching Your Kids to Understand Privilege
Make travel a priority.
This is the single most significant thing my parents did for me as a child when it comes to helping me understand my privilege and the role it plays in my life and that of others. We traveled across the United States, visiting all types of communities. We traveled to various other countries, immersing ourselves in their cultures. It made me more open and introspective. It helped me see that my way wasn’t the only way. It made me more aware of how my personal experiences and upbringing colored my behavior and thoughts. Seeing how people live in other countries, or just in other parts of our own nation and within our own cities is a super easy way to help your children understand what privilege means to them.
Read and discuss.
When you can’t get to other countries for your children to experience how others live, expose them to literature that describes it for them. Help them to understand the things about their lives that makes them not have to struggle in the way others do. Teach them empathy. Talk to them about what you read and help them relate to it. Explain what lies between the lines. Education can truly impact perspective and mitigate other influences.
Listen, the only people on the planet who don’t see color are the ones who are privileged enough that they don’t have to. The rest of us see it, we respond to it, we interact with it, and we live it. You don’t have to judge people by it, but choosing not to even see it, to not respect it enough to acknowledge it, is an action that speaks loudly to your privilege and your inability, possibly even unwillingness, to accept those living with it.
Accept and move on.
Be open to listening and learning. Accept that the things you say and do are likely colored by your experiences in this world that may or may not allow you to easily relate to others. Be humble. Be eager –to learn, to see, to analyze, to accept. Don’t be defensive or combative about your privilege. Personally, I just see it as part of who I am. I don’t desire to release it. I’m not ashamed that it’s mine. Instead I acknowledge it, I appreciate it, I seek to understand it, I attempt to use it for good. I don’t want my children to feel guilty about it, and they don’t have to if they are constantly working to ensure that it doesn’t cause them to be oppressive, judgmental, or entitled.
Be the change.
I know that many people think advocacy looks a certain way –that you can only really be fighting the man if you’re marching in the streets, sign held high, proclaiming your position. Personally, I shun this idea. Advocacy comes in many forms. You don’t have to be the loudest to be supportive. You don’t have to be the most visible to make a change. But be willing to stand for what you believe in by taking actions that will be impactful to your cause. That can be something as small as teaching your children about privilege, moving beyond tolerance to acceptance, and making every effort to ensure that the next generation is not filled with a bunch of privileged a-holes who vote for presidents who don’t know their butts from a hole in the wall better than this one.
Looking for more ways to teach your kids about privilege? Step one: Check out the blog Mamademics. There are so many interesting reads and useful resources for raising an advocate. Next, read How to Teach Your Kids About White Privilege and 8 Ways You Can (and Should) Explain Privilege to Your Kids.