People get defensive, angry, and offended when someone tells them to “check their privilege” Often the first thought is, “My life isn’t easy so why would you suggest I am privileged?” The first thing to remember is that everybody has the privilege of some kind. This just means we need to search inside and figure out what that means and what aspect of our identity that society values over others.
You have an “unearned” advantage in comparison to some other people and this isn’t something that you are at fault for. It’s important to try to remember this when being told to check your privilege. Here are a few things to remember as we proceed through life:
It is not personal when someone asks you to check your privilege they aren’t necessarily trying to insult you but ask you to take some time to do a reflection and pay attention to our words. There are things said that can come off as offensive however because of privilege in our lives, we don’t pay attention or realize what we are saying. Be sure to remember that while you can walk, some people don’t. While you can see, some people don’t. So be aware of your behavior and have compassion while you are at it.
You have your own struggles, do you go into a building and wonder if you can get to the 3rd floor or do you just walk up the stairs. Someone with a wheelchair will go to the front and inquire where the elevator is. if there is no elevator, they might have to have people carry their chair upstairs and that in itself can be humiliating because they have lost control of the situation. However, being put in that situation is at no fault of their own, the meeting was set up at a location that is inaccessible. You as an able-bodied individual don’t have to think about the extra steps to get to that meeting.
Being told to check your privilege is also a compliment because people are believing that you are mature enough to take feedback and reflect on it. if you are being given this sort of feedback and get irritated by it, perhaps you’re not ready to face it. That is okay but the process should not to ignore the need to reflect. Focus on what you can do as a person and move forward.
If your gut instinct is telling you to get upset, you may feel an urge to defend yourself.
“I’ve had a tough life, too!” you might say. “You don’t even know me or what I’ve faced!”
It’s true – no one knows your struggle the way that you do.
That doesn’t mean you should ignore the conversation when someone else is sharing their concerns and asking you to think about them. Focus on validating their struggles and demonstrate compassion, learn how you can understand them better. Walk a mile in their shoes. Be aware, just because someone tells you to check your privilege, that doesn’t mean that they’re to educate you on the issue. They’re calling you out but they are also asking you to take some time to learn something new.
So, a few ideas for you to do would be to start with some research. Examine your impact on others and if it has been negative, figure out how to change it to a positive. Finally, be sure to tune in not opt-out. This is not an email list where you can just opt out of reading their newsletter. This is real life where people are being hurt left and right and if you can’t understand why pay attention. learn something from someone whose’ life experience is different and you’ll come out of it as a better person.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on The Deaf Report under the same author. This article has been placed on Deaf Vee Journal for archiving purposes.