We live in an unfair and unequal world. Some people have great privileges while other do not. Often we aren’t aware of these differences – they can be invisible to those who hold the privilege. This is why it is important to check your privilege.
What does ‘check your privilege’ mean?
A privilege is a special advantage, right, or benefit held by an individual, group, class or race. These privileges are exercised to the exclusion or detriment of others.
The basic idea behind ‘check your privilege’ is that everyone to a certain extent speaks from a position of privilege and they should take into account that others are not as privileged as them.
The first step is to accept that you are privileged, then to understand what that means. To be aware of that in how you behave in the world, and finally to work towards the dismantling of that privilege.
There are many kinds of privilege, mostly associated with the dominant voice in power – those who are white, male, heterosexual, able-bodied or wealthy.
Race and Privilege
Our society is racist. White people experience the world in a very particular way due to the privilege of their race. Often they are completely unaware of when they are benefitting from this privilege. People who experience racism are painfully aware of the difference in how they are treated in many aspects of their lives.
An important step in building an equal world is for everyone to be aware of these differences so they can actively work to stop them.
Check Your Privilege
How did you find the challenge? Were you surprised by how many fingers you put down or didn’t put down? This sort of video can be a way of understanding how your experiences are the norm or not in your society.
Make Your Own Challenge
Kenya’s challenge was made by an adult for other adults, so some of the questions may not relate to your life so far. Make your own version for young people your age, based on the experiences of you and your friends.
You might want consider questions like:
Put one finger down if you have ever…
– Been followed or watched in a shop because they thought you might be going to steal something
– Been taught not to run in the street in case people think you’re running away from trouble
– Rarely seen movies with lead characters who looked like you
– Had very few books with characters that looked like you
– Had no teachers who look like you
– Been asked ‘where are you from?’ by someone expecting a different country
– Had someone insult you because of the colour of your skin
– Had someone refuse to play with you because of the colour of your skin
– Been taught how to stay safe if stopped by the police
– Ever been stopped by the police
– Felt frightened for the safety of someone in your family because of their skin colour
– Had to celebrate your religious holidays (Christmas, Easter, Eid) outside school holidays times
– Had a plaster that doesn’t match my skin colour (not counting a cartoon one!)
– Been told that my natural hair doesn’t match school rules
Try the challenge out with your friends and family — how does it change how you view your level of privilege?
Take it Further
Find out more about the concept of ‘checking your privilege’ in this great article that explores what it means. Consider how your books reflect you and the world around you by doing a bookshelf audit. Walk around your area and consider who names and buildings have been named for with our History Gap activity.