Another of those attempts to explain privilege

I am a privileged bitch. Fact. You probably have all heard the sentence, “Check your privilege.” Well, I did that today, when a meme popped up in my Facebook newsfeed, titled, Minority Scorecard.

As a black, disabled, transgender, pansexual Muslim I would have scored 204, but since I am a white, able, cisgender, straight person with no religion at all, I only totaled a meagre 6 points.

Here’s where someone predictably will go, “All lives matter!” or “White people have it rough, too!” and yes, that’s true, no doubt. Also, it’s not about who’s the poorest bastard and the biggest victim of society. Actually, it’s about something akin to democracy. We live in a society where the majority sets the rules. If you’re not part of that majority, well, sucks to be you.

The You’re-playing-a-PC-game-with-the-lowest-possible-difficulty-setting analogy to explain privilege has been around for years now, but there’s still people out there who find it hard to understand that the word might actually describe their personal situation. So I’ll give you a new analogy.

My digestive system.

I’m serious.

It’s like this. I’m one of those people who can eat whatever they want without gaining weight. Hormones affect me, so I was a little pudgy during adolescence and pregnancies, and maybe I’ll have to watch it when menopause kicks in, but right now, I could eat a box of cookies each day and I’d still keep my waist. Actually, I do that.

This is privilege. I’m sorry. I know it’s not my fault, just like my skin color, or my social background. It’s genetics, the rest of my family is the same, but each time someone tells me they’re on a diet or really shouldn’t eat another piece of cake, I feel a stab of guilt. Because I have it easy.

And it’s the same with straight, white people, or any other privileged group. “But white people have it rough, too!” Yeah, I know. I’m getting to it.

My digestive system thing has a downside. There are days when I’m constantly hungry, where I can’t eat as quickly as I burn it all up again. That gets expensive. On other days, I’ll be constantly freezing. Right now, I’m sitting in a well-heated room, my estimate would be something around 22°C, and I’m wearing jeans over thermal tights and two pullovers and I still feel cold. Those are the days I’m not sure whether my privilege really is a privilege. Just like a straight, white male struggling to pay the bills doesn’t feel privileged.

We are, though, both me and the hypothetical straight, white male. Because we have facilitated access to this life’s all-you-can-eat buffet.

And no, this is not meant as a pep talk along the lines of, get over it, other people have it worse than you. It’s meant to make you understand that no matter the downsides of your existence, if you belong to a privileged kind, you have the advantage. Whatever your personal privilege is, whether it’s the color of your skin or the fact that you come from a rich family, life gave you a headstart other people don’t get. It’s worth ‘checking your privileges’, because there are people out there who literally have none.

It shouldn’t be a competition over who has it worst. It should be about how we can make it better for everyone.

About angelikarust

My name is Angelika Rust. I was born in Vienna in 1977. These days, I live in Germany, with my husband, two children, a despotic couple of cats and a hyperactive dog. After having tried almost every possible job from pizza delivery girl to HR consultant, I now make a living knowing English. No, I haven’t yet figured out what I want to be when I grow up, whenever that may be. In the meantime, I write the occasional book.
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