Privilege is a term that is increasingly heard in the narratives of the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion world, whether these be narratives that seek to ‘undo’ some form of privilege or discourses that seek to undermine the reality of its existence. However, there is little discussion about how ‘privilege’ as a phenomenon works. To me, this is a significant absence for if we are to ‘undo’ privilege, then surely, we must understand how it works?
It seems that, no matter where we look, there are those with privilege who rail against accepting its existence and their role in perpetuating inequity simply by being privileged. Consequently, one of the hurdles we face in disrupting and undoing privilege is the responses of privileged people to discussions about it. So, how do we manage these responses?
Privilege is complex. It is not only related to economic and material wealth. It’s psychological and emotional too. For example, that no White person experiences systemic racism means that we are all psychologically and emotionally privileged in comparison to People of Colour. Even more complex, though, is the reality of intersectional privilege.
Privilege is accrued by individuals that society is set up to favour; individuals who belong to certain identity categories e.g., men, people racialised as White, being middle-class, not being disabled by society, etc
There are many misconceptions that arise when the term ‘privilege’ is mentioned. Some of these misconceptions are intentional and designed to minimise the power and impact of an honest conversation about privilege.