With Privilege Comes Responsibility

I am privileged. It’s a fact we don’t often talk about or that we often don’t even acknowledge. However, whether we notice it or not, privilege is very much a part of our lives and impacts our decisions.

Photo by Brain Glanz

I am white. While that shouldn’t make any difference, in our society it does. It means I’m less likely to be discriminated against because of the color of my skin. It means I can walk around in parts of our country without being harrassed by police or having it assumed that I am a criminal or an illegal immigrant.

I grew up Christian. While, after years of careful study and scrutinization of world religions, I no longer lay claim to that label, the fact that I grew up Christian lent a privilege of its own. I was not discriminated against due to my religion at that time. At the same time, I often consider myself privileged because my mother encouraged me to question things. She stood up for me, when as a small child, I questioned Sunday school and church leaders about various topics or positions. It was her support that allowed me to study world religions and viewpoints as a teenager and come to my own decisions.

I am intelligent. While I may have grown up poor, I was able to go to college on scholarship. I breezed through classes without studying. I am able to research and make my own decisions. I can hold my own when confronted by those in positions of authority regarding my decisions.

I am middle class. I don’t have to worry about having enough money to feed my children. I am married to a wonderful man and am able to stay home with our children. I am able to keep my children with me rather than being forced to find alternative child care which may not be in accordance to my beliefs. I can spend the time needed to establish good breastfeeding relationships. I can afford food which I otherwise might not be able to. I have greater choices available. I am less likely to be affected by environmental pollution based on the areas I am likely to live.

I live in the United States NOW. I am not someone’s property. My children will not be ripped away from me. I am not forced to stay with an abusive husband. I will not be sold and treated as mere property. I am able to access resources and information.

I am female. While this normally does not allot privilege, being female in the US means that the idea of cutting my genitals when I was born never occurred to my parents.

I am an adult. According to US law, I became a person when I turned age 18. My voice counts. I can vote. I can make decisions for myself. It is a crime for someone else to hit me or abuse me. If I were to ever be in such a situation, I could leave.

For all of the ownership I try to take over the choices I make, I cannot overlook how privileges beyond my control, and often allotted me by those who have gone before me) have affected my life. To do so would be to discount those who do not have the same privileges and opportunities. As the saying goes, with privilege comes responsibility. I cannot turn my back on those who are less privileged…those who have been disciminated against…those who are just as deserving of opportunities as am I. That is why I feel I must speak up for others…why I speak against discrimation and injustice.