Why and How Facing Your Privilege Can Be Liberating

  • Miki Kashtan Center for Efficient Collaboration
Keywords: facing privilege, shame, feedback, defensiveness, liberation, white fragility

Abstract

Because we live within highly individualized modern cultures, we often do not see the structural dimension of privilege. Having our privilege pointed out often sounds like being told we are a terrible person. Conversations about privilege become highly charged and often ineffective, but something better is possible. It starts with recognizing and naming that since privilege is structural, not individual, it has nothing to do with goodness or badness. The key is to focus on two distinctions: systems as distinct from individuals and having privilege as independent of choosing how to engage with it. This paper identifies four negative ways of engaging with privilege—Denial/Invisibility, Guilt/Shame, Defensiveness, and Entitlement; and four positive ways of engaging with privilege—Owning privilege, Learning about privilege, Opening to feedback, and Stewarding privilege. Shifting to the positive path liberates us from the unnecessary discomfort of seeing a systemic issue as an individual failing. Instead, facing the reality that our privilege is at the expense of other people invites a generative and useful discomfort. My hope is that we can find our way to collective awakening with only the necessary and unavoidable discomfort, and not more.

Author Biography

Miki Kashtan, Center for Efficient Collaboration

Miki Kashtan is a writer, blogger, facilitator, consultant, and trainer working with others to reclaim our collective capacity for collaboration, including across divisions of power and privilege. She co-founded Bay Area Nonviolent Communication. For more information about her work go to FacingPrivilege website.

Published
2019-05-23