Some Thoughts On Inventorying Our Privilege

(For context: This post is part of a bigger discussion on white privilege that began here.)

If we want to be effective in fighting for justice, it is essential that we learn about and remain mindful of different aspects of our 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 when those of us who are more privileged engage with others who are more marginalized.

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

  • All of our identities are complex. There are dozens of ways we might experience privilege or oppression, to varying degrees. And all of us have some parts of our identity that are privileged, and other parts that are oppressed.
  • Privilege isn’t absolute. It is always shifting, because it depends on context. It’s about being part of a group that is more or less advantaged compared to those in another group.
  • Often it is 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. What we can do is leverage our privilege to help create a more just and equitable world for everyone.
  • 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 hard work we may have put in or obstacles we may have overcome.
  • The different parts of our identity—the different social systems we belong to—are not separate. They interact and inform each other. This is part of a larger concept called intersectionality.