18 November 2016

a few thoughts on privilege v. entitlement

A lot is being made lately about privilege - white privilege, middle-class privilege, all kinds of privilege. A few of my friends and I took one of those Facebook quizzes a couple of days ago, this one designed to assign a number to your privilege. 

On a scale of 1 - 100, I got 33. Some of the questions were ridiculous. Did you go to summer camp? Well, yes, I went to day camp, but not because of privilege, but because both my parents worked and you can't leave a 6-year-old home alone all day. Education level - well yes, I have a M.S., but I paid for it by working through school, between school, and for 7 years afterwards. 

I'd been thinking about privilege since a very good friend listened to a story I'd told about wading into a huge high-school brawl in the library's parking lot when I was in my forties. She said I could get away with it because I had white privilege going for me. I said no, what I thought at the time - and now - is that I had tiny woman privilege: the brawlers wouldn't hurt a little person like me. My goal was to keep the kids from getting hurt -  not because I was the authority figure, but because I didn't want children to get hurt.

We agreed to disagree on that one, but it still has me wondering and extrapolating. Take Ivanka Trump, for example. When her father met with the emissary from Japan the other day, she sat in on the meeting -- I assume because it would never have occurred to someone so privileged that she wasn't entitled to. 

And there we have the dividing point between what one has by accident (for example, skin color) and what we assume is ours. I am beginning to think that the accusation of "privilege" needs to be tempered by what one has done with it. Have you taken a certain leeway that an accident of birth gave you and used it to take what you might not have earned, or expect to get whatever you want? 

Entitlement is poisonous. Privilege can be a tool. This thought needs some work, but I am intrigued. Thoughts?


Freyalyn Close-Hainsworth said...

It's a very scary world we're living in at the moment, and it behooves all of us to carefully examine ourselves and our thoughts.

Of course, those of us who are doing that already probably already need to do this far less than some who aren't doing it at all. (Naming no names....)

teabird said...


KSD said...

My son has said, sadly, that he should be okay because he is a straight white male. He shakes his head as he says it. He gets it.