If someone tells you to check your privilege, don’t assume they say it derogatorily. If it is, then choose not to accept it if you are okay with you.
When someone says “check your privilege” it almost feels as if they are saying “stop bitching you have more than you should.” If someone tells you to check your privilege, it isn’t always said to put you in your place or to make you feel some sort of guilt for things outside of your control. It is a phrase meant to make you aware of what you have going for you and not to always look on the lemon side of life.
We all come into this world with a talent or advantage. Obviously, some advantages are more apparent than others. But, that doesn’t mean that anyone should feel guilty about what they have or who they are. It just means that you should look around to examine the things you received because of the way social constructs are set up.
When most people are told to check their privilege, they take it as a personal assault on their character. It feels as if someone tells you that you didn’t earn what you have and everything that you do was handed to you on a silver platter. That isn’t always the case. Sure, you may have advantages that others haven’t due to your socioeconomic status, gender, or race, but that doesn’t mean you weren’t a party to your own success.
What check your privilege does not mean…
What check your privilege does mean is that in society there are those who enjoy certain advantages due to the way they system is set up. You didn’t have to ask for certain things, they have been decided upon and set up in such a way that you have what you have.
#1 It is not an insult. If someone tells you to check your privilege, it is not meant as an insult. No one is trying to tell you that the privilege you enjoy is your fault. What they are asking is compassion for others. Try to be more empathetic.
If you don’t want someone to judge you by what you have because of who you are, then don’t assume someone else is where they are because they lack something. There are times when people born into bad situations are unable to overcome their limitations.
Checking your privilege isn’t an insulting thing, it asks you to consider what you have, what you have been given, and to give other people around you the same consideration, especially if they are not privileged.
It is very easy to judge people in this world by what they have, their motivation, or their conduct. But, sometimes when you are born with nothing, including economic advantages, or the idea you aspire to ever get ahead, it steals your motivation.
Checking your privilege involves understanding that we are brought up with certain limiting beliefs about the world. If you were brought up believing no matter how hard you work you won’t ever make it, then what is the point of trying? Not an insult to you, it is a comment that has nothing to do with you individually at all. [Read: How to be more emphathetic and forge emotional connections]
#2 It doesn’t mean you haven’t had a hard life. Many people are born with privileges within our society who still struggled in other ways. When someone says check your privilege, it doesn’t mean you skated through life unscathed. Privilege has nothing to do with individual and emotional struggle. There are privileged in our society who struggle with the same challenges as others both personally and emotionally.
Checking your privilege doesn’t mean you lived a free and easy life, it just means that maybe you acknowledge that if you experienced struggles, imagine how much worse they could have been if you didn’t have the advantage you had.
No one makes it to the end of their life without hardship and struggle. But due to societal constructs, some people have it way worse than you, even without the struggle you experienced. In the end, it isn’t a competition about who had it worse.
#3 It isn’t something to defend yourself against. It isn’t meant to be a statement that makes you think about all the things you personally overcame and make a mental list.
Meant to make you socially conscious, it isn’t a statement that should make you defend yourself, where you are, how hard you worked, or what you overcame. It is about seeing the blessings in your life instead of all the hard knocks you had.
Many people look at the phrase as something negative. And, I suppose it can be, if that is how you spin it. But, what it really should do is make you look around and think that life is pretty damn good from where you stand. Relish in the fact that life maybe a different journey for everyone. Luckily, yours has been pretty outstanding overall. [Read: How to be a good person: 10 small changes to transform your world]
#4 It isn’t an excuse. If someone tells you to check your privilege and you assume it’s meant to be derogatory, then don’t allow it to take you down a notch. Sometimes it can be something that people use to excuse their own lack of motivation or achievement.
If you know you got where you are based on more than just the color of your skin or your genitalia, then don’t allow anyone to make you feel guilty. Someone else not rising to their potential is not your fault, it is theirs.
If you are told to check your privilege because someone is upset about where they are in life or the things they haven’t achieved, that is on them, not you. Hold your head high and set the record straight.
As screwed up structurally as America can sometimes be, remind them of the fact that you can be whatever you want with some dedication and hard work. No matter how societally tiered we are, the American dream hasn’t changed.
We are all in this thing together, so it doesn’t help to use your privilege, or, lack thereof, as an excuse or an entitlement. Be who you are, be proud of what you have done, and, if you aren’t, change your own circumstances. Guilt does nothing but weigh us all down unnecessarily.
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