“Privilege” – The Ultimate Source Of Guilt

The word “privilege” is regularly thrown around as a means to divide and conquer.  It prevents the general public from unifying, and instead coerces them to constantly compare themselves with each other and feel guilty for their successes.  

BuzzFeed released a video documenting an innovative social experiment, “The Privilege Walk”. One of the participants stated, “I think privilege is when some people have things and other people don’t have things.”  A group of 10 people from different backgrounds were asked a series of questions about privilege.  By the end of the video, the participants explained how shameful they were in regards to where they stand on the literal scale of higher privilege to lower privilege.

I think BuzzFeed had good intentions in the root message of the experiment, but I don’t agree with how they went about sharing it.

I do agree that there is a lack of appreciation for our freedoms, as well our access to modern day conveniences such as electricity, water, food, clothing, indoor plumbing, etc.  If we learned about the origins of these luxuries we would be more thankful and conscious of our consumption of them.

The hashtag used to mock our own “privileges” is #firstworldproblems.  It is appropriate for situations where adults or children get upset while someone in a third world country would not.  For example, an American 5 years old’s iPad runs out of battery and it often causes a temper tantrum, while a child in Africa that has to make toys out of trash would be perfectly content.

Empathy and appreciation for the valuables we take for granted should absolutely be encouraged.  However, Buzzfeed’s experiment went beyond first world appreciation, it used “privilege” to further divide society.

Equality cannot be achieved by making people feel guilty for being in a positive situation.

Yes, our citizens enjoy more freedom and luxuries than those of developing countries.  However, this was achieved through blood, sweat, and tears.  It is our job to advocate the same rights to be spread throughout the world, especially impoverished countries.  I.E. Women’s rights in the Muslim world.

In the modern era, the majority of people in this country are not held back from achieving goals because of their race, sexual orientation or religious affiliation.  The only thing holding them back is the victim mentality, blaming others, and not being accountable for their own personal actions.

Let me give some clarification before assumptions are made that “this writer is just an arrogant privileged white supremest.”

  • I grew up in a home where my parents worked nights and weekends to support my family.  Also,  for a number of years we had to share a household with another family in order to make ends meet.
  • I was constantly embarrassed of my clothes/house while growing up.  I wore hand-me-downs, and  getting 5 shirts at the thrift store would constitute a shopping spree.
  • I was “bullied” for something I could not change.
  • When I entered the working world I worked all religious holidays.
  • I was unable to take out loans and my parents never contributed to my college education.
  • I am Hispanic, however the color of my skin and my mom’s skin is different, as a result I was repeatedly asked if she was my step mom, and people have even randomly tested my Spanish skills.

That’s where I fit in with the questions asked in the video.

The difference between the participants of the experiment and myself, however, is that I never complained about how others always “had it better” than me because of race, sexual orientation, gender, or any other outlier I could not directly control.

Rather, I use other people’s success as motivation for me to personally work harder so that I could someday overcome my past and create a better future.

Yes, we have all faced adversity, but that should never be an excuse to allow ourselves to give up on life, throw up our hands and say “well, I’m being oppressed and there’s nothing I can do about it”.  The reality is, it doesn’t matter where you came from – with some gumption you can get anywhere you want to go.

As citizens of the United States of America, we need to embrace the inalienable rights we were given as citizens to do good.  Utilize free speech to promote positive ideas, not hate.  Utilize our first world luxuries to help create innovative ways to make them sustainable and accessible to more parts of the world.  Embrace empathy and teach it to the next generation.

If every 3rd grader was taught to meditate – this world would be a less violent place, our children would learn how to cope with feelings of frustration from an early age.

Do not fall into the trap of the “woe is me” victim mentality.  We should all work to make a better future, not just for ourselves but for the world around us.  If you believe you were granted more privilege than others while growing up, I applaud you for recognizing your blessings.  Do not feel guilty, demonstrate appreciation and help others enjoy things the way that you do.  If you feel that you are on the opposite end of the scale and missed out on things other people had, I implore you to think positively and strive to make a better future.

Appreciate what has been granted to you and strive for others to enjoy the same opportunities for happiness.  Most importantly, stop race baiting and look within yourself to find success.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men (and women) are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”