You've probably heard — or perhaps been on the receiving end of — a comment about how much privilege you do or don't have, but these conversations often lead to anger or hostility from one, both, or all parties involved. This, of course, prompts the question, why do people get so angry about privilege? That's what Franchesca Ramsey of MTV's Decoded tackles in the latest episode of the web series, and it's definitely worth a watch.
As Ramsey notes, the phrase "white privilege" first emerged during the 1960s — although white privilege is far from the only type of privilege that exists. There's also male privilege, straight privilege, cis privilege, thin privilege, able-bodied privilege, to name just a few. At its core, Ramsey explains, "Privilege is defined as a special right or advantage available only to a particular person or group of people." For example, I have straight privilege, which means that I never have to worry about people making unfounded assumptions of me based on my sexuality, I am not harassed because of who I choose to date, and I don't have to worry about not being accepted by my family or religion because of who I'm attracted to. I do not, however, have male privilege; that means that as a woman, my voice is listened to less frequently (and it's policed, as well), I make less on average, I deal with more violent and sexual harassment online, and so on. See how these everyday occurrences add up to equal a lot of social inequality?
So why exactly does this seemingly simple concept make people get so fired up? Let's take a look at three of the reasons Ramsey cites. Make sure to watch the full video below for more!
1. Privilege Is Equated To Blame
"When people hear the word 'privilege,' it feels like they're being blamed," Ramsey says. It doesn't help that privilege is often used as a way to gratify, with phrases like "X is a right, not a privilege" being commonly used in our language, thereby creating somewhat of a dichotomous usage of the word. Thus, it can be easy to feel like someone is trying to tell you to feel bad about having something that you feel you've earned. Since discussions around social privilege are often very controversial, this can lead to a lot of heated emotions. "No one wants to be the bad guy and no one wants to be blamed for something that's out of their control," Ramsey adds.
2. Privilege Makes People Feel Guilty
Although this is neither the point nor the intention, feeling guilty for having privilege is often a byproduct of conversations about it. There's nothing that a guilt trip is going to accomplish, since we can all agree that we don't like to be shamed, right? Ramsey points out that it's important to remember that having privilege or the existence of privilege isn't anyone's fault, so someone pointing out that you have privilege doesn't make you responsible for it. However, not acknowledging your privilege ends up perpetuating social inequality, so it is bad news to try to deny that you have privilege altogether.
3. Some People Just Don't Understand The Concept Of Privilege
No bones about it: Privilege can be really hard to see . "It's like when a horse has those blinders on — they can see what's in front of them, but there's a whole bunch of stuff in their peripheral that they can't see," Ramsey says. When you've lived your entire life with a certain kind of privilege, it's hard to see because you never have to think about it — and when people are asked to try to see something they hitherto haven't been able to, they can get frustrated and angry. Not being able to see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist, though, which is why checking your privilege is so important.
To see another reason why people get angry when talking about privilege and for some tips from Ramsey on how to avoid getting angry yourself when confronted with conversations about it watch the full video below.