Privilege is Relative
Over the last few years, there’s been a lot of talk about privilege–white privilege mostly. But I would argue there are different types of privilege and it’s relative. EVERYONE HAS A CERTAIN LEVEL OF PRIVILEGE. I think the two types of privilege that have the most potential for good are money and connections because they provide mobility and access to opportunity, and can be used within any socioeconomic circle.
When I was growing up, we were poor, but we still had some level of privilege. My mother chose to adopt one child and it was just the two of us until she died when I was 17 years old. Almost everyone I knew came from a family with at least four kids in it, so they had to stretch their meager dollars even further. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we had more than many folks we knew and she instilled in me the need to give to those even less fortunate than us, so every weekend we were doing something (collecting newspapers for recycle, cleaning fish for fish fries, baking cakes, etc. I even went door to do selling toothbrushes!) to help raise money for the church and that money went to families in need (unlike many churches today where the money goes to pay off the minister’s house and other material possessions).
My mother was also very well connected to the people she cleaned house for, so she used those connections to get her little brown girl (that would be me) into a high priced all white nursery school (that would be called preschool today) which made all the difference in my readiness for kindergarten. She also used her connections with the local police force to make sure we were able to shoot off fireworks at the lake each 4th of July, and when an officer told use we couldn’t one year, we drove to the police station to get the police chief and before you knew it we were back at the lake with our fireworks. When the gas shortage of the 70’s it, she was able to park our car at the pump the night before to avoid the lines. So she used some of her connections for necessity and some for convenience. I think it all balanced out because she gave so much to the community and to the church.
So, what do we do with our relative privilege? It certainly doesn’t mean we should use it to take every advantage in life–which too many people do. First and foremost we need to recognize we have it. Secondly, we need to determine how we will use it to make the world a better place. For me, I changed my career to start a foundation and I mentor young people. For my family, we give 15% of our income to charitable organizations and we volunteer our time.
Look, it doesn’t really matter to me how you do it, just please, please use it for the good of the whole and not just for your benefit!