What happens if you discover that the “even playing field” you thought you were playing on was tilted heavily in your favour? Would you feel proud of your accomplishments, still, or would you maybe deny your privilege?
Would you feel uncomfortable knowing that everything you took for granted perhaps wasn’t really something everyone had access to?
It’s difficult when your world crumbles around you, in particular if you have painted yourself as the hero, and suddenly you’re no longer it. You might even be inconsequential, or worse, the villain.
I have a theory that every time marginalised people bring up their mistreatment to the privileged few there’s a moment of “oh shit” followed by inaction or a gesture designed to calm the conscience followed by forgetfulness and a return to the almost status quo.
It’s easier to forget that you are privileged than to remember and to act on it.
Maybe the moment of “oh shit” is even accompanied by a feeling of indignation. “Not all men!” And then we have a backlash, followed by two steps back, followed by exhaustion, followed by the next generation picking up the torch.
Change takes so long, especially when the mechanisms preventing change are built in, solidly into our society, culture – everything.
It’s easy to forget privilege. It’s a state that goes hand in hand with entitlement. As someone said “grant me the confidence of a mediocre white man”.
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