Why and How Facing Your Privilege Can Be Liberating
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.
This journal is an academic publication. Its sole purpose is the dissemination of knowledge to as wide an audience as possible. The journal is free to individuals and institutions.
Copyrights for contributions published in this journal are retained by the authors, with first publication rights granted to the journal.
Copies of this journal or articles in this journal may be distributed for research or educational purposes free of charge and without permission. However commercial use of the journal or the articles contained herein is expressly prohibited without the written consent of the author.
NOTE TO AUTHORS:
A new model, the Creative Commons approach, with split copyright is rapidly evolving and worth considering.