Privilege (Definition): a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.Oxford Online Definitions
I was having a book club discussion on Dr. Ambedkar’s speech – Annihilation of Caste, two days back. When it was my turn to introduce myself, I said, “I didn’t even know which caste I belonged to, until I went to college and some seniors thought I would make a good choice for a wife because I was a Brahmin (aka upper caste Hindu)”.
My co-readers said, “The fact that you didn’t know what your caste was, shows your privilege”. And how true it was.
This made me think about all the conversations I’ve had, all the tweets I’ve read, all the movements going on about the atrocities people go through on various grounds, because they weren’t privileged. And I thought, privilege isn’t something to be to be taken for granted anymore. It has become a liability.
Here are some of the ways I noticed privilege, drawing in from the observation my reader friend had made regarding my privilege:
- If you have never known hunger, you have the privilege of being rich
- If you have never been sexually abused, molested or discriminated against at your home or place of work, or place of worship because of your gender, you have the privilege of being a man
- If you have never had to fight to marry the one you loved, or killed because of it, you have the privilege of being straight or affluent enough to get away with it
- If you have never been tortured or humiliated or discriminated because you were born into a lower caste, you have the privilege of being born into an upper caste
- If you were never stopped from doing something or never been enslaved because of the colour of your skin, you have the privilege of being white
- If you have never faced caustic comments for being from a different race or religion, you have the privilege of belonging to a race or religion that holds a position of power
- If you have never been held captive or bred for the sole purpose of feeding another species, you have the privilege of being human
I’m sure this list is nowhere close to being complete, but I have been trying to accept my privilege and trying to see the liability it is.
When you are at a position of privilege, it is easy to feel victimised, even without actually being a victim. I would think, why is the world so angry? What do they want from me? Why can’t they leave me alone? Oh gosh, I’d rather not read the news or discuss this subject because it affects my anxiety and my depression. I feel so helpless! What can I even do to help? I’m afraid..what if I stand up and am noticed by someone who holds a position of privilege and power? What if I’m trolled? No matter what I do, someone hates me..
And yes, a lot of those thoughts and fear and anxiety come because of my privilege. I don’t want to lose it, I realise. This liability and this safety net. I know it makes me a coward in many ways. But then I try. I try to read more, discuss more, and acknowledge that I don’t have to think about half of these things because of my privilege, whereas there are millions who don’t have that luxury.
My friends say, sometimes, just talking about it is enough. Just stepping out of your bubble is enough. The fact that you’re trying to empathise, is at least a start. If we don’t talk about it, how can we even begin to make the world more humane?
So, I’m trying…and I’ll keep trying…
P.S.: My intention was not to sermonise or hurt anyone’s feelings or sentiments by this post.