Privilege: it’s a word we hear used almost every day now in our society. The dictionary defines it as “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted to a particular person or group.” But has the connotation taken a different meaning in our modern society? Has it turned into something of an excuse or perhaps a stone to throw at people when you see them succeeding? Not in every case. But by some, yes.
Don’t get me wrong, it is absolutely a real thing. People are born into certain privileges while others are not. Where one person can have a privilege or advantage in life, they can also be at a disadvantage in another area in their life. It’s not by any means an end-all, be-all, like with the implication that is being used today. No two people have an identical situation, so everyone’s privileges are different. And what is or isn’t considered a privileged is subjective to each and every person. What you view as a privilege someone else may not and vice versa. It’s a very, very grey area. But society is now looking at the term as a black-and-white topic. And there lies the problem. Either someone is deemed “privileged” or they are not. And, unfortunately, it tends to get thrown around when you see people succeeding, blind to the struggles they may have faced to get where they are.
There are a number of privileges one can be born into. And most hard factors that define your life can be considered a privilege.
Your race can be considered a privilege.
Your family’s income can be considered a privilege.
People who grew up in dysfunctional family units can easily consider a healthy, happy family unit a privilege. So, your family dynamic can also be one.
Then, it gets a little blurrier. What about your traits that you were born into… the ones that help you to succeed, they put you at an advantage over someone who doesn’t have the same traits… so your ambition can be considered a privilege to those who weren’t born with it.
Your determination and positive traits you were naturally gifted with could be considered a privilege.
Very slippery the slope gets. Now, to some people, what you have that they don’t have and want is suddenly a privilege. And now, maybe you see the issue.
This isn’t in any way true for everyone, but many people are using privilege as an excuse for their own shortcomings. I’ve seen people decide not to work, not to try hard at all, and then cast the stone of ‘privilege’ at someone who is working hard and succeeding, someone they barely know. I’ve seen a person come from nothing and the second they begin succeeding, many they once knew turn on them and declare that they have gotten where they are in life through ‘privilege’.
It’s something to think about. What really makes someone privileged? It’s absolutely subjective to the viewer. And it’s always changing. So, the next time you use the word privilege, really think about it. Try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes prior to saying it. If you don’t know enough about their life, perhaps, don’t throw stones at them.
Now, again, this isn’t to say that people aren’t born into privileges based on their race, gender, or family’s income. But it’s a reminder to give someone the benefit of the doubt. Hard work and dedicated should be admired. Not everyone succeeded solely on a single privilege they may have been born into. Having a subjective mind and the ability to shift perspective to give someone the benefit of the doubt is a rare, admirable trait to have now-a-days, and I hope you consider doing it more often in a world full of excuses and anger. And I hope you realize that you have certain privileges that others don’t and vice versa. That’s what makes us different. That’s what makes us human. That doesn’t always put someone ahead of you in life. Don’t forget a lot can be done with hard work and perseverance. And I hope that going forward, you will begin to look at the word ‘privilege’ as a subjective term that applies to one factor in someone’s life. It should never be the sole trait you use to define someone.