an article freely translated and addapted from niemblog

more and more i meet people who fled horrible life circumstances, war zones and hunger. if i see the media showing actual situation about the refugee crisis, horrible life conditions in camps and people waiting for asylum apart from their families for more than a year, i start to see what a privilege it is how i could grow up and live today. but what does it mean to be privileged?

a privilege is a undeserved advantage of a particular group in society. but it is a situation you don´t even have control over but you can be conscious about it. if we talk about the consciousness of a privilege, it is important to say that some groups have easier conditions than others to reach a certain goal. for example to find a job, feed the family, or to be save. the problem is, that it is not visible that some people are privileged because of people in a better state it is the normal state.

if i walk around my city it is normal for me to feel safe. many people, who belong to a group of people who are confronted with thread and violence or live in a dangerous region, can not say that from themselves.

make privilege visible

why should i make a privilege visible, and what does it help to be conscious about it? it would be nice, if we do not need to talk about privileges, because there would be non and we would have all the same precondition for a good life. but unfortunately, this is not the case. so if a problem exists but not visible, it is harder to find a solution.
the first step is to be able to see that there are privileges and accept them. this is not always easy, because no one wants to hear that he has unearned advantages. there can be an inner resistance because of their own achievement which should be acknowledged. we are living in a society where personal performances are important. to hear that others have harder conditions can also cause guilty or shameful feelings. i can definitely feel a pressure here.

but lets calm down the situation, cause no one is helped if we feel bad for our better conditions or if we react out of inner pressure. lets see how privileged we really are.

how privileged am i?

it helps me to respect and understand the different groups of society that i belong to, if i am more or less privileged. this includes nationality, place of residence, gender, colour, social layer, gender identity, sexual orientation, appearance and health.
there it is important to notice that they are overlapping. for example, i am extreme privileged of my nationality but not of my gender.

origin – that i am born in germany and live here is a big privilege. i never experienced war or had to suffer of violence when i leave my house. i never had to starve. i have all possibilities to be informed about political topics, to say my opinion and collect knowledge. i can study for free in every university and even get funding to be a student. i can open the tap and drink clean water and don´t have to walk many kilometers to the next dwell. and if i am sick i can see the doctor without worrying about how to pay the bills.

colour – i am white and belong to the majority in germany. when i look in magazines or videos i see people of my colour. i know where i belong to. no one asks me directly where i come from. i am not controlled by the police more often because of my appearance.

social layer – i would say i grew up in lower middle class. i could attend a decent school and was able to study at university. my parents could support me financially and i never needed to starve.

gender – i am a women, therefore, for some people my opinion is not as valuable as the same opinion of a man. in some jobs women earn less than man and if i do not dress as a women in some groups i am not taken serious or they are looking at me strangely. at the same time i am more privileged than other women because of my origin and colour. in general i am not afraid of sexual abuse, rape or violence. in general i feel more safe than unsafe.

gender identity – i am female and i am called by my name. in general it is accepted that i am identified as a women.

sexual orientation – i could walk through the streets holding hands with a man as well as with a women without being afraid someone will call bad things after me. i could marry everywhere in the world. i can easily have children. (update 2020: luckily i have found a wonderful man with whom i have a very beautiful child and we are having a privileged familylife 😉)

appearance – i have no problems to find fitting clothes. i can choose freely what to eat or not to eat. no one has offered me special diets so far, i can eat in public to any time of the day. i can wear whatever i like to and  i do not have any problems because of my hair colour, (except my blue mohawk in school when i was 15).

health – i am healthy. normally, i do not have pain. i am not dependent on someone in everydays life. i do not have to worry about how other people react on my disability. i can visit events without the need of checking if it is possible for me to enter or not.

“walk of privilege“ – how privileged are you?

in this video, there is an exercise with ten people, who answer several questions about their lives. due to their answer, they are walking one step forward or one step back, showing if they are privileged or not.

check out how pirivileged you are, here are all the questions:

  • if your parents worked nights and weekends to support your family, take one step back.
  • if you are able to move through the world without fear of sexual assault, take one step forward.
  • if you can show affection for your romantic partner in public without fear of ridicule or violence, take one step forward.
  • if you have ever been diagnosed as having a physical or mental illness/disability, take one step back.
  • if the primary language spoken in your household growing up was not english, take one step back.
  • if you came from a supportive family environment take one step forward.
  • if you have ever tried to change your speech or mannerisms to gain credibility, take one step back.
  • if you can go anywhere in the country, and easily find the kinds of hair products you need and/or cosmetics that match your skin color, take one step forward.
  • if you were embarrassed about your clothes or house while growing up, take one step back.
  • if you can make mistakes and not have people attribute your behavior to flaws in your racial/gender group, take one step forward.
  • if you can legally marry the person you love, regardless of where you live, take one step forward.if you were born in the united states, take one step forward.
  • if you or your parents have ever gone through a divorce, take one step back.
  • if you felt like you had adequate access to healthy food growing up, take one step forward
  • if you are reasonably sure you would be hired for a job based on your ability and qualifications, take one step forward.
  • if you would never think twice about calling the police when trouble occurs, take one step forward.
  • if you can see a doctor whenever you feel the need, take one step forward.
  • if you feel comfortable being emotionally expressive/open, take one step forward.
  • if you have ever been the only person of your race/gender/socio-economic status/ sexual orientation in a classroom or workplace setting, please take one step back.
  • if you took out loans for your education take one step backward.
  • if you get time off for your religious holidays, take one step forward.
  • if you had a job during your high school and college years, take one step back.
  • if you feel comfortable walking home alone at night, take one step forward.
  • if you have ever traveled outside the united states, take one step forward.
  • if you have ever felt like there was not adequate or accurate representation of your racial group, sexual orientation group, gender group, and/or disability group in the media, take one step back.
  • if you feel confident that your parents would be able to financially help/support you if you were going through a financial hardship, take one step forward.
  • if you have ever been bullied or made fun of based on something that you can’t change, take one step back.
  • if there were more than 50 books in your house growing up, take one step forward.
  • if you studied the culture or the history of your ancestors in elementary school take one step forward.
  • if your parents or guardians attended college, take one step forward.
  • if you ever went on a family vacation, take one step forward.
  • if you can buy new clothes or go out to dinner when you want to, take one step forward.
  • if you were ever offered a job because of your association with a friend or family member, take one step forward.
  • if one of your parents was ever laid off or unemployed not by choice, take one step back.
  • if you were ever uncomfortable about a joke or a statement you overheard related to your race, ethnicity, gender, appearance, or sexual orientation but felt unsafe to confront the situation, take one step back.

further information about this topic

Hilfe, ich bin privilegiert! Was nun?

Privilege 101: A Quick and Dirty Guide

Privilege and Needs

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