Can I talk about my privileges? It’s taboo it seems, but it really shouldn’t be. People like me should be acknowledging them openly.
It’s a reality. I have many privileges. I have blue eyes and white skin. I am a female in Canada. I have educated parents and am educated myself. I have travelled to other countries. My faith is not apparent merely from looking at me. My home is in a nice area and I went to lovely schools in safe neighbourhoods. I can wake up every morning and take a deep breath without any worries about how my day may unfold based ONLY on how and where I was raised and on my appearance. These are my privileges. These are the gifts that make my life ridiculously easier than some. I’m pretty sure I can go most places in Canada and walk in the door without any suspicions or prejudices clouding the air. I walk freely down the street with no concerns about how someone might make an assumption based on their interpretation of my expression, or my clothes, my religious wear or my gait. No one will spew hateful stares or worse yet, words. No one will look at my name on an application and make any misconceptions based on the origin of it. I will benefit from shorter wait times at the border. I will benefit from better service at restaurants. These are my privileges. I urge people to acknowledge that they have these benefits too. No one will base generalizations about me based on misinformation threaded through hundreds of years. No one will look at me and assume that I am dumb, or violent, or a drunk, or uneducated or easy. No one will hate me because of who I love. In fact, the complete opposite is often true. I will benefit from a positive assumption.
I urge you to acknowledge out loud the privileges that you have. Only then, will the people who live their lives without them, know for certain that you are sympathetic towards them. Only then will other people who are ignorant of their own privileges, look at themselves and society with a different lens. Politely point out the misconceptions people have. Share stories to prove their misinformation. Share your acceptance on social media. Share how histories have skewed reality. Change a few viewpoints. A few at a time.
I always tell my elementary junior level students, that the world would be such a boring place if we were the same. I also challenge them to define “normal.” I point out that my normal is so different than theirs and that of each student’s in the whole school. Who are we to define what normal is anyhow? Do you want to be that egotistical to say your life is better than someone else's? How beautiful the differences we all have. How rich the histories, the faith, the art, the music. Don’t be afraid of the unknown, instead invite people to teach you. As long as a way of life is peaceful and kind, we shouldn’t judge.
So people, please think about what you learned about the human race, who taught you those things, and then mix in the privileges you are so fortunate to have. And then make a public promise. Here is mine: My life and the way I live it is based on so many factors, but one that plays out a lot, is the FACT that I had the privileges listed above every step of the way. As such, and so unfairly so, my life has been easier than many. So, to my family members, friends, colleagues and fellow humans that don’t enjoy the same privileges that I have, I apologize and sympathize. Genuinely. But not just that….I promise you, that I will celebrate our differences and educate the misinformed. I will listen to your struggles and frame them within the histories of your people. I will spend my life learning more. I will never stop in this feat. I will keep pointing out the privileges of the ignorant. Constantly. I will build empathy. I will try.
I hope this is a start towards the world I want to live in. And the one everyone else deserves as well.