Zara Todd: The problem with privilege

Standard
Zara Todd

Zara Todd

As a young, white, heterosexual disabled woman, I have a pretty good idea of how privilege affects different people’s life chances. I have both privileges and experienced oppression and discrimination because of my identities.

I believe that both privilege and oppression should be recognised so that we can challenge discrimination and promote inclusion and equality I would like to hope that I am an ally all my friends, brothers and sisters who are oppressed in ways I am not. For me understanding what my privileges are and how they affect my experience and others experiences is crucial to understanding how I can be a better ally. However I have a problem with how privilege is often acknowledged and addressed.

Far too often, the process by which people identify privilege inadvertently perpetuates negative assumptions and hierarchies about identities. For example, I have seen a number of explorations of individual’s privilege which highlight somebody’s physical or mental health as being a privilege is massive. Now to me, this is problematic for a number of reasons.

Firstly , in the case of identifying not being disabled .Many non-disabled people are yet again emphasising the biological basis of disability downplaying societal construction.

Then there is the issue that the concept of privilege itself is inaccessible and elitist, only really accessible to those who have some kind of privilege.

Acknowledging privilege also tends to continue place a value on certain identities and characteristics above others. When you are repeatedly being told your identity is a disadvantage, it can be demoralising. Frankly, can leave you wondering why you should keep fighting for equality when the world seems against you.

In addition, the act of acknowledging privilege on its own continues to place those with privilege in a position of power. There is not enough dialogue about how privilege can be addressed or how people can use their privileges in ways that promotes equality.

The process of identifying privilege does not celebrate what advantages coming from marginalised group gives a person. For me there are many brilliant things about being a young disabled woman that I would not change or trade for the world. Yet there are very few spaces where I am allowed to celebrate what is good about those identities and how they have positively enhanced my experience.

While we need to continue to acknowledge that not everybody is born equal nor does everybody have the same opportunities we need to find a way of doing this that is celebratory and empowering for those identities which are seen as a disadvantage.

– Zara Todd

 

 

Advertisements

One response »

  1. Zara very interesting blog – Interesting – so can one be “privilege” and “oppressed” at the same time. I read with interest that you refer to being privilege and being an ally – In some ways some people think I may have been “privilege” with a middleclass background – so does that mean that I can not be oppressed and identify as a disabled person on equal terms with others who are not privileged – the reason I pick this up is because of the following sentence: “I believe that both privilege and oppression should be recognised so that we can challenge discrimination and promote inclusion and equality I would like to hope that I am an ally all my friends, brothers and sisters who are oppressed in ways I am not.” Privilege does not sit in a vacuum, but within a social context – for me it can be an element rather than separate of oppression. I agree that sometimes privilege can be separate from oppression, depending on how you experience it – so sometimes privilege can enable positive as well as negative experiences, and therefore should be considered within a social context and where appropriate an element of oppression.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s