Send to Kindle

I’ve written several times on “male privilege” and “white privilege.” I’ve tried to de-criminalize having privilege, to normalize it so we can see it. (If we can see it — admit it — then we can do something about it.) As I’ve said, “privilege” is not a four-letter word. One is privileged simply by not generally being on the receiving end of common forms of bias. We resist saying we are privileged, or part of a privileged group, as I’ve said, “as if that would mean we are personally guilty of atrocities to non-white groups or personally at fault because our ancestors owned slaves.”

An article in Huffington Post says all this so much better than I can. The author, an accomplished and highly educated black female, is addressing a white male friend who has demonstrated that defensiveness at the thought that he might be “privileged.” He notes that he is “apparently guilty” of having privilege and so “complicit in the misfortunes of others.” The author, Lori Lakin Hutcherson, responds to his request for personal stories that help him see what he has been “missing.”

In the article, Hutcherson tells ten such stories. She tells them not with anger or blame. She notes that she learned not to “make a fuss” when such things occur. She learned to “just deal with it.” She doesn’t point fingers. She just points to facts that illustrate what is so hard for us white people to see.

Examples: never having to:

  • Recognize that your skin color alone makes people hate you.
  • Have others assume something you have accomplished is because it was taken away from a white person.
  • Have your intellectual abilities questioned based on skin color.
  • Use creative ways to minimize the chance you’ll be stopped by police on your way home from work.

We are like fish swimming in water; we assume the water feels the same to all the other fish. Fish don’t load on guilt — on others or themselves. Maybe if we drop the guilt, we can see that the water isn’t the same for all of us. And then deal with it!