During an election when one of the most divisive issues is how to help groups that have been left behind by a globalized/information economy, privilege is a topic that comes up frequently. It’s a challenging situation, where (in my slightly naïve view) a group of predominantly white, rural and suburban, lower-middle class people are feeling a lack of support from the government in protecting their traditional jobs and roles in the economy. Whether or not protecting their jobs is the right approach (or whether we should be investing in training/re-training) is up for debate.
What’s I don’t think is up for debate is that this has lead to an uncomfortable schism between that group and other groups who have also been held back in the economy for various reasons (gender, race, economic status, etc). Ironically, as this weekend’s SNL showed, those groups actually have more in common than not.
But things seem to get caught up on the concept of privilege and whether or not certain groups should be getting an “advantage”.
This is a long prelude to what I think is a really great way to describe privilege, from an article by Toria Gibbs and Ian Malpass:
Privilege does not mean you had it easy. It means you had it easier. If a man grows up in poverty, and drags himself out of it, that’s impressive. That’s hard. If he’d been a woman, he’d have had to do all the same things, while also fighting society’s expectations of what women can or should do. Privilege is what you don’t have to deal with.