Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Am I A Smug, Privileged Jerk? Part II

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | June 04, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Middle Class, passing privilege, privilege, trans community, transgender community, white privilege

This is Part II of a series. Part I can be found here.

I am sometimes smug, and sometimes a jerk, but always privileged.

The concept of "privilege" is a bit confusing.queen-elizabeth-ii.jpg

Few people are born into families with great wealth, which we would call a "privileged" upbringing.

The concept of "privilege" being discussed here, however, is different from the concept of "privileged upbringing."

Some commenters in my last article on this series rejected the notion that I am "privileged," seeming to equate it with the idea that I am racist.

Privilege and racism are different, albeit related, concepts.

Have I benefited from "privilege"? Let me tell you a little story. Also, that awesome Eddie Murphy skit from SNL, "White Like Me," after the jump.

When I graduated from law school, with decent grades from a pretty good law school and a few accolades, I received some pretty good offers. They were all for more money than I believed possible. Nonetheless, I was advised by people older and wiser than myself that I must negotiate.

Following this advice, when I received these offers, I always said "thank you, I will think about it." I always came back with a request for more money, with some reasons why they should give me more. These requests were always received courteously, with a "let us think about it," and they generally came back with a few thousand more.

After I transitioned, and even after my "awkward-looking phase," I couldn't get a job as a lawyer. So I took some jobs as a secretary. After a while, people could not tell that I was transgender, and they didn't scrutinize my resume or background as carefully as they did for the lawyer jobs, and I didn't tell them I was a lawyer or had a JD. To them, I was an ordinary female.

When I received offers for these jobs, I negotiated in the same way I had previously. I quickly learned that negotiations for these jobs was a whole different animal. My "let me think about it" and requests for more money were viewed very negatively. The request for more money was routinely rejected almost immediately. The difference wasn't in the nature of the job. After a few years, I tried for and received an offer for an attorney job.

My attempt to negotiate for more money was rebuffed almost immediately. I took what I was given. I also learned from female friends that they routinely had similar experiences in the job market.

My experience leads me to believe that some kind of privilege for a white male was in operation. I wasn't aware of it when I had it. How could I have been? I hadn't experienced anything else.

White Privilege vs. Racism

Wikipedia has a pretty good article on the subject of "White privilege," which has been extended by some to characteristics beyond race.

In critical race theory, white privilege is a way of conceptualizing racial inequalities that focuses as much on the advantages that white people accrue, as on the disadvantages that people of color experience.

Unlike theories of overt racism or prejudice, which suggest that people actively seek to oppress or demean other racial groups, theories of white privilege assert that the experience of whites is viewed by whites as normal rather than advantaged.

In other words, the concept of "White privilege" is a way to get at a reality that is far more complex than "racism." According to Merriam-Webster, "racism" is "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race." Some people use "racism" and "racist" to refer to the concept of White privilege, but I believe that such usage is not generally accepted. "Racism" is a belief, whereas "White privilege" is an advantage given by others.

White Privilege and Institutional Racism

A related concept is "institutional racism." I think "White privilege" is what White people receive from "institutional racism."

I think this is a pretty good definition of "institutional racism":

Institutional racism is the differential access to the goods, services, and opportunities of society. When the differential access becomes integral to institutions, it becomes common practice, making it difficult to rectify. Eventually, this racism dominates public bodies, private corporations, and public and private universities, and is reinforced by the actions of conformists and newcomers. Another difficulty in reducing institutionalized racism is that there is no sole, true identifiable perpetrator. When racism is built into the institution, it appears as the collective action of the population.

This suggests that institutions, unlike people, have not come all that far from the bad old days.

If you're a new college or university admissions officer, and you see that your best students are Whites and the Black students are not getting the good grades, and your colleagues give you subtle hints that they need more "disadvantaged" Black students -- how likely is it that you will continue to have the attitude that most Black applicants will turn out to be top students?

If you're a new police officer, and you see that a lot of the people under surveillance and a lot of the suspects picked up for certain crimes are Black, and your colleagues give you subtle hints that most of the criminals are Black -- how likely is it that you will continue to have the attitude that Black people are innocent until proven guilty?

While people who are openly "racist" still exist, they are far and few between in today's world.

I'm not a racist, but that doesn't mean I don't benefit from the assumption that I am intelligent, an honest citizen and deserving of respect -- because I am White.

Of course, if I show myself to be unintelligent, dishonest, or unworthy of respect, the privilege won't operate for individuals who know me. But the point here is that there may be an unconscious assumption among Whites (and even some non-Whites) that I am worthy of respect, whereas non-Whites may not receive the same benefit of the doubt from Whites.

Why do some people reject the notion of "White privilege"?

White people still need to work hard to succeed. But non-Whites may have to work twice as hard, three times as hard, a hundred times as hard. The playing field is tilted at a sharp angle towards one team's side.

But such an argument creates mounds of anxiety-inducing guilt, guilt, guilt. Pointing to the disadvantages of African-Americans, recent immigrants, or trans people is so much easier, because people can lay the blame on "society," or lack of "personal responsibility."

Pointing to advantages of Whites, long-time citizens or non-trans people is more problematic, because it means Y-O-U have personally benefited at the expense of those others. Who, me? Why, I do a lot to help those underprivileged people! Are you accusing me of racism? How dare you, etc.

I do not believe that, simply because I have benefited from White privilege, I am a racist. However, I do believe that it is important to account for that privilege, to call it out where its operation tends to exclude other people, and to work to ensure that such institutional racism does not continue.

For example, why is it that a majority of the major LGBT organizations have mostly White people in the top echelons? Black and Latino people are about 25% of the whole U.S. population (50% in some US states). Why don't we see 25% of Blacks and Latinos in those ranks? Why do we see so few people of color contributing on Bilerico? Why are there so few Black and Latino students and faculty at my college?

I believe that White privilege is part of the answer to these questions. I note that my acknowledgement of this does not solve any problems. It's merely a start on understanding why the problem exists.

Another question that I think needs addressing is whether the concept of "white privilege" can be properly extended to other forms of invidious discrimination. Is there "male privilege," "straight privilege" or "cis privilege"? Would it be helpful to use such concepts to examine our society?

And lastly, how do we address these inequities?

But this post has gotten long enough. One commenter in my previous post noted that it would be beneficial not only to examine the concept of privilege on a theoretical level, but also to take a look at where has privilege been in operation in my life, and what advantages have I received from it.

That will be in a future installment. But first, here are two awesome videos. The first is Eddie Murphy's wonderful SNL skit "White Like Me." While it is meant to be comedic and over the top, I do believe that it is a good metaphor for the workings of white privilege.

The second video gives a interesting rundown on the concept of privilege from anti-racist speaker Tim Wise.



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A. J. Lopp | June 5, 2010 1:24 AM

Very good post, Jillian, and good videos.

The one point that I think is missing here is a discussion of how white privilege occurs with a whole set of requirements, many of which are unspoken. Let's say John is a white male and he just graduated from Harvard Law School in the top ten percent of his class, as his father did.

But John surrenders his "white privilege" the minute it becomes known that he is (choose one or more):

* Gay or trans
* Politically radical
* Doesn't plan to ever marry and have children
* Doesn't want to become a law partner in a prestigious firm
* Doesn't give a hoot about amassing wealth
* Openly talks about smoking pot
* Wants to legally represent the poor or under-privileged
* Wears his hair shoulder-length
* Refuses to wear a business suit under any circumstances
* Etc, etc, etc.

"White privilege" is the reward John gets for fitting into the role that upper white society wants John to fit into --- having white skin is necessary, but hardly sufficient. The moment John shows opposition to the "good ol' boy" system, his white privilege disappears.

This shows that what is behind "white privilege" is the notion that, in the eyes of people with power, you get privileges when I perceive you as a copy of me. So ultimately, white privilege is a form of tribalism, or viewed from the opposite perspective, it is a form of xenophobia.

This reminds me of the time when I was a youngster during the 1960's. I asked what is so terrible about black people marching because they feel they deserve chances at getting better jobs, and my Dad quickly called me a "nigger lover". He was telling me to get back in line.

But John surrenders his "white privilege" the minute it becomes known that he is (choose one or more):

No. Privilege isn't a single line or plane where you either benefit from white privilege or not. It's a number of intersections where you may be privileged in some ways and oppressed in others. This doesn't mean you can divide someone's life up into separate parts and only take some into account at any given time - it all adds up.

So your list applies to:

* Straight or cis privilege (and "gay or trans" aren't two mutually exclusive categories - they intersect)
* Being politically radical doesn't make you oppressed.
* Being single or childfree doesn't make you oppressed.
* Class/income privilege does matter, but a poor white person still gets benefits for being white over a poor black person.
* Openly talking about smoking pot does not make you oppressed.
* Wanting to represent the poor does not make you oppressed.
* A man wearing his hair shoulder-length is not oppressed.
* Refusing to wear a business suit won't make you oppressed.

Most of your examples are outright wrong, and none of them will mean you don't have white privilege.

Chitown Kev | June 5, 2010 2:18 PM

As with a lot of the examples that you note, Lisa, context is everything.

For example:

* "Being single or childfree doesn't make you oppressed."

In the context of, say, some Christian church denominatins, being single and childfree may not make you "oppressed" but it can certainly be a site of marginalization.

By the way, to Dr. Weiss, this is a fascinating discussion.

No, the white privilege remains. What disappears, if John breaks the mold, is another separate form of privilege - straight, cis, or other.

There is nothing a white person can do to rid him/herself of white privilege, because anything s/he does still leaves him or her privileged over a person of colour who has done the same thing. It's not appropriate to compare a blue-collar white gay man with a conservative straight black lawyer. You compare the blue-collar white gay man with a blue-collar black gay man, and the privilege reveals itself. Privilege is an inequality that remains even when all else is equal.

While the points you mention, AJ, (like not wanting to go to Harvard or talking about legalizing pot), would result in negative repercussions in the family, and could result in some shunning from the establishment types, I don't see that as similar to giving up white privilege. It takes one down several notches, but there are hundreds of levels. I remember thinking after I transitioned, as I walked down the streets of my Brooklyn neighborhood right next to the Myrtle Street projects. It was a hundred levels down from my Upper East Side apartment building. It was bad - hard to explain how bad in how many ways. The reality of that street was unimaginable to me. And if that was bad, what was it like living in the hood next door? And being Black? All day long?

The deficits you mention are, I think, relatively minor compared to that.

Holy Crap, I just posted this Eddie Murphy video this morning--are we in a mind-meld scenario???

Jillian wrote: "Why do we see so few people of color contributing on Bilerico? ...

I believe that White privilege is part of the answer to these questions."

Just my guess, mind you, but I doubt if White people are hovering over the keyboards of people of color saying "don't you dare post anything to Bilerico; it is Whites only, you know."

Anyone can post to Bilerico. If people of color aren't posting much that is their choice and has nothing to do with White privilege.

On a related note I believe progressives, LGBT or otherwise, significantly dilute the importance of our real world issues with racism, sexism, homo/transphobia and more when we insist on cramming everything we don't like into our well worn victim model. For example, in the U.S. men who have sex with men (MSM) have a "rate of new HIV diagnoses ...more than 44 times that of other men.(1)" No card carrying progressive likes to see statistics like this. But the problem is not that MSM are victims of homophobia. It is that they have an awful lot of unprotected sex with a lot of partners.

1. http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/docs/FastFacts-MSM-FINAL508COMP.pdf

Chitown Kev | June 5, 2010 12:38 PM

Hmmm...white privilege may explain SOME of it in terms of a) the digital divide (which still exists)...for example, I don't have regular access to a computer at this time in my life.

The very assumption that all people of color have ready access to keyboards to post is the essence of white privilege.

(And as much as I would like to write some well thought out piece for Bilerico, much of my energies have to be devoted elsewhere at this present time.)

The very fact that you are ignorant of some of the factors that MAY affect, say, a prospective POC from posting at Bilerico is the essence of privilege (although it may have more to do with class privilege than race privilege).

"The very assumption that all people of color have ready access to keyboards to post is the essence of white privilege."

But it's not. That's class privilege. There's nothing about a POC that excludes you from having keyboard, so I'm guessing you're talking about economic reasons.

Poor people of any race wouldn't assume that anyone that wanted to could own a computer and afford a steady internet connection. But a person from a middle-class or up likely would.

Lee, your point about this being a class issue, rather than race, ignores the fact that about 60% of all African-Americans are in the bottom two quintiles of American income. In plain English, that means that most African-Americans are crammed into the bottom of the income scale. Being African-American means you're more likely to make a lot less. While there is a class component, that component is itself overdetermined by race.

Chitown Kev, I agree with you and I think it's a very important point that people forget. One cannot understand what it is like to be a member of an underprivileged group because one has not experienced life in that group. I tell you that I got the shock of my life when I transitioned. I can't know what it's like to be Black, but I do know what it's like to be a piece of shit that everyone wants to scrape of their shoe. I hear a lot of white middle and upper class transsexuals have similar experiences. They don't, however, always have the consciousness to relate it to privilege, either because they've never heard of the concept, or they have been indoctrinated to believe that minorities are whiners who don't take advantage of the glorious opportunities offered by this country (though these are far more to the privileged group).

I wrote about this in my 2001 article, The Gender Caste System: Identity, Privacy and Heteronormativity. In it, I used critical race theory to analogize the oppression of trans people to a caste system (though those systems are quite different). It's much too long to reproduce here. You can read the pdf by clicking here, and the discussion starts on page 135.

Chitown Kev | June 7, 2010 10:06 AM

DR. Weiss, I believe that I can give a very good example of this.

I was raised in a family where newspapers, magazines, and books were literally everywhere. For example, my grandfather worked at a Detroit suburban shopping mall and he would bring home boxes of the remainders to read; a lot of those books were the first books that I read.

So, as Toni states, literacy was and is something that I have always taken for granted and I used to look down on people who didn't know how to read or who could not understand what they were reading.

So imagine my surprise when I became an adult and I was in college and out in the world and I came to know a number of illiterate people (mostly but not always black and Latino).

(And one also has to think of "the digital divide" in terms of literacy rates in this country as well)

Later in my last semester of college (I went back to school in my 30's) I was going through job issues and I found myself working labor jobs for a time just to keep the rent paid. I was so awful at these jobs that my coworkers and my bosses would literally laugh at me and call me stupid, etc.

It was an extremely debilitating experience.

Then I got it.

That is, this is the EXACT same thing that those who are illiterate or who did not have the fortune to be "book smart" as I was (I guess).

I am pretty sure that they were told what I was told in those day labor jobs constantly.

It was a humbling realization, to say the least.

Chitown Kev | June 7, 2010 10:08 AM

DR. Weiss, I believe that I can give a very good example of this.

I was raised in a family where newspapers, magazines, and books were literally everywhere. For example, my grandfather worked at a Detroit suburban shopping mall and he would bring home boxes of the remainders to read; a lot of those books were the first books that I read.

So, as Toni states, literacy was and is something that I have always taken for granted and I used to look down on people who didn't know how to read or who could not understand what they were reading.

So imagine my surprise when I became an adult and I was in college and out in the world and I came to know a number of illiterate people (mostly but not always black and Latino).

(And one also has to think of "the digital divide" in terms of literacy rates in this country as well)

Later in my last semester of college (I went back to school in my 30's) I was going through job issues and I found myself working labor jobs for a time just to keep the rent paid. I was so awful at these jobs that my coworkers and my bosses would literally laugh at me and call me stupid, etc.

It was an extremely debilitating experience.

Then I got it.

That is, this is the EXACT same thing that those who are illiterate or who did not have the fortune to be "book smart" as I was (I guess).

I am pretty sure that they were told what I was told in those day labor jobs constantly.

It was a humbling realization, to say the least.

Nerissa, in noting that it's the choice of people of color to participate less in Bilerico, you imply that the choice is a neutral expression of free will. The word "choice" is a term fraught with ambiguous meanings. Just as "coming out" is a "choice" that is strongly influenced by social and economic factors, so too is getting involved with the "White" world. Companies that wish to be diversity leaders and employers of choice have to work hard at creating welcoming, inclusive environments for people of color and other minorities. Sure, it's my choice not to participate in or come out in many straight environments, but that's not because I'm too lazy to do it. One of the problems we've had at my college is dealing with the relative lack of diversity. One of the main problems is that when many African-American prospective students come to our campus, it feels and looks so "White." A lot of people don't want to go to a college where they're going to have to work hard just to fit in. I was involved in a diversity study of our campus in 2004, and a high percentage of non-White faculty, staff and students reported feeling uncomfortable. Not enough to leave, I suppose, but not enough to recommend it to friends. We're working on it, but I'm not sure it's going well.

White privilege is a more useful concept than racism, but it gets less address for reasons you state above. But we do have to stop thinking of racial disparity as always resulting from "discrimination against X group." Not everything's so simple, and, more importantly, not everything bad that happens happens as a result of an evil person cackling behind a curtain. Sometimes it's just people trying to protect what they have, even if it's mroe than they deserve.

not everything bad that happens happens as a result of an evil person cackling behind a curtain.

What is kind of amazing is how many people seem to think that talking about privilege or oppression means you're talking about an evil person cackling behind a curtain. It seems to me that it's usually a derail to block talking about privilege or oppression in the first place.

I mean, I'm not saying you're doing it here, but I think it's pretty basic 101 stuff that this isn't the case. But, at the same time, this means that privileged people will be causing trouble for oppressed people, and that's insensitive, wrong, and inexcusable. The worst part is that many refuse to believe that their actions are harmful because they don't see the actions as harmful to them.

I agree with Lisa, Alex. In my post I specifically noted that privilege is about the advantages of the privileged group, not the disadvantages of the out-group. It's not the fist we're talking about, it's the hand not extended.

polargirl360 | June 5, 2010 10:09 AM

Everybody is privileged. Some people are more privileged than others.

That statement I've read on the part I blog post and see it implied here reminds me of a parody of a slogan made in George Orwell's book Animal Farm.

Everybody is equal. Some are more equal than others.

Unequal equality sure sounds like an oxymoron. Then again, oxymorons are quite common in the transgender movement right down to how some people self-identify. Self-deceit and deceit of others which is extremely easy due to self-deceit is the undoing of this movement.

You should probably read this.

I assume you're arguing from spite and bad faith, but someone else who really is confused and not trying to pick a fight might benefit from it.

"Everybody is privileged"? You're right, Polargrl, that would be a dumb statement. But I just re-read Part I and I didn't say that. Maybe you're summarizing and I missed it. If I said that, I withdraw it completely.

polargirl360 | June 5, 2010 12:14 PM

I read the article and part I as well. I am not trying to pick a fight. I just resent that rather than making a blog "FULLY" apologizing and "FULLY" owing up to being a privleged jerk and an elitist pig, Dr. Jillian Weiss decided to go on a long winded, three part spiel and tangent about privilege instead shifting focus and blame away from her negative behavior.

I sure do resent people like this, especally when they are leaders due to the damage they cause.

Thank God for the gadflies. Your comment sure made my blood boil, Polargrl. But that's a good thing. You have a right to be angry, and you're right that my posts so far have not discussed my own privilege. I was going to discuss it in Part II, but I wanted to clarify the nature of privilege, because so many commenters on Part I said I wasn't privileged or seemed to misunderstand the concept.

Longwinded? Guilty as charged there.

And my agreeing with you doesn't make it better. It puts me in the position of the White African-American Studies Professor (played to perfection by Spalding Gray) from the movie "How High," who spouts off about racism (incorrectly) while maintaining his privileged position.

Anyway, I'm not done posting yet. When I own up to privilege, to what issues do you think I should refer?

I'd like to think I'm at least educable.

I'm sorry, but describing trans people as deceiving of self and others set me off.

polargirl360 | June 5, 2010 12:32 PM

"I Am A Smug, Privileged Jerk!"

The greatest Bilerico blog never to be written by Dr. Jillian Weiss! At least not fully sincere, remorseful and full-hearted anyway.

I think "sincere" and "full-hearted" are good adjective here, but "remorseful"? I think privilege has to do with social benefits one receives without effort, while thinking they come as the result only of one's own efforts. It's not about taking effort to do someone else dirty.

I don't think "remorseful" applies here. I'm willing to be wrong, but if you're looking for an apology, that's not what this is about.

Jillian, I think of you as A queen, not THE queen.

And, hmm, having an Eddie Murphy video in a post by a trans woman... where is Freud when we need him?

But, seriously, a wonderful post about a subject a LOT of people are still highly defensive even bringing up. I truly appreciate these two essays.

Chitown Kev | June 5, 2010 1:48 PM

I think that the tricky thing about privilege is the shattering of the privileged person's innocence or assumptions.

I think that in this instance we're speaking largely about race but I have seen (as recently a couple of days ago at Daily Kos) straight POC's clutch pearls at the very idea that, in some respect, they did occupy a position of both privilege and marginality in this society.

I mean, even as a gay black man, I occupy some positions of privilege (I'm male, relatively educated, cis-gendered) and yes, I understand that I do inherit all the privileges of those positions and I don't lose those forms of privilege simply by virtue of being gay, black, and non-Christian.

A key aspect of privilege is that it is founded in expectations.

Privilege is subtle, it is not something one does at a level of awareness without great effort.

It is absolutely present here at Bilerico -- among the site owners, among the contributors, among the commentators.

It is not hierarchal, one kind does not trump another kind, and it works insidiously to create a sense of unease and to make one person forget something about another person -- something they often aren't always aware that they shouldn't be forgetting.

Privilege is not about who has it worse, it is about who has some sense of expectation and ho doesn't.

http://www.bilerico.com/2010/03/fundamentals_privilege.php

Thanks, Toni, for reminding me about your great post on the subject. I'm going to re-read it carefully.

Antonio! Why in the world are you posting? You're in the bottom quintile of income. The fact that 60% of POC are in the bottom two quintiles explains the low number of posts from POC. This regardless of the fact that computers with internet access are ubiquitous at libraries, schools, the homes of friends, the workplace and elsewhere.

Perhaps you're motivated to post due to Bilerico having had a long history of being welcome to transwomen. Or not - it appears to me that Bilerico became trans friendly because people like you ignored trans problems with Bilerico and participated anyway. Thereby eventually fixing most of the problems.

The main reason you're able to post and do is found in your comment "A key aspect of privilege is that it is founded in expectations." You expect to be heard, you expect your comments are important, etc. For people who think this might be because you know for a fact that the privilege of being White trumps the disadvantages of being trans they need to guess again.

Instead you have the attitude that most successful people of any color, race, gender, etc. have. It is your positive attitude towards self that makes for your privilege. So why are you not employed? This is not so difficult to figure out. The bigotry towards transwomen is real to the point that many (most?) of us even with the best attitudes are likely to have work related issues.

The point of my original reply was to say that progressives need to work on real issues, like the workplace bigotry towards transwomen. Self-esteem issues with little to no basis in fact need to be addressed by the individuals involved and anyone willing to help them.

A model for doing this that I came up with in my MTF gender transition is "people can not reject someone who will not leave." If anyone wants to be welcome anywhere they need to keep showing up until people give in and acceptance will follow. I admit this model fails the reality test at times but more often than not it works.

The anti-assimilists may need to sit down for the following comments: assimilation is necessary to be accepted almost anywhere. If you wish to join a bowling league, to give a trivial example, you darn well better at least pretend to like bowling and to be willing to wear those not so sexy bowling shoes. A big problem I've seen with minorities, with transwomen often leading the way in demonstrating this, is assimilation is hampered by tendencies to focus on our issues when we shouldn't.

Hey Nerissa :D

Strictly speaking, in the US, I'm in the bottom 1% of income. At just under the one half of one percent mark. I'm doing better than the folks living on the street, so that's not something to sneeze at, lol.

And I am an anti-assimilationist. You are right that people cannot reject someone who will not leave -- the best they can do is make it so bad that you want to leave by heaping indignity and stigma on you.

None of which affects their privilege.

But as an an opponent of assimilationism, I also feel that the best and most effective way to break it is to stand up to it and face it full on. And, in the process, you stay true to yourself, to your individuality, to your personal uniqueness.

I don't think that joining a bowling league when you dislike bowling is a good idea -- but being able to join one when you do and still be yourself (meaning that you do something to enjoy bowling but that doesn't mean you enjoy the same stuff as the other folks in your league) is what stands out.

Assimilationism is about forcing you to conform to others' wants, expectations, and rules, and doing so against your will.

It is about sacrificing you for the gains of others because you are just too different.

It shouldn't matter that you are different -- what should matter is how much you are the same.

Tab Hunter’s Ghost | June 6, 2010 5:40 PM

Jillian, I really appreciate this series. It is thought-provoking and educational. In my own journey of self-examination I’ve encountered the resistance exhibited in some of the comments on this thread within myself.

When I first started to read about and understand privilege I was trapped by a few conundrums: privilege is posited as a problem yet it is pointed out repeatedly that it exists independent of any action of the privileged.

I would guess many, when confronted with the notion of privilege, might share a similar feeling of helplessness or maybe even an attack on who and what they and their loved ones are and represent in the world.

Some advocates of privilege awareness seem to exacerbate this problem by taking an attack mode approach, gleefully pointing out numerous examples of privilege used in self-defense and I don’t know how effective that is in furthering dialog or educating but it seems to me to be a common practice of some who consider themselves more enlightened.

My American upbringing has taught me that, when confronted with a problem (and there’s more than a bit of male privilege there too) I should try to solve it. How does one solve white privilege when one can’t become un-white? I then realized that awareness of the privilege and acknowledgement of how it affects my interactions with others was the beginning of a solution in and of itself.

Same goes for my cis privilege and several other privileged states that I was born into. I have not even begun to unpack all that this means but I am glad that I have become more self-aware and I try to think through my awareness in all levels of my life.

I look forward to your next article.