Privilege and Permission

There’s a lot of discussion and debate about privilege these days. And, to the extent that it helps make room for people who were already speaking to finally be heard, or helps people too accustomed to the sound of their own voices to listen and learn a little more, that’s probably a good thing.

What’s really not helpful, though, is when we veer into privilege-shaming and shutting people down (or out).

It’s undeniable that some people have head starts in life. Arguing about that isn’t interesting, and if it keeps people from putting their privilege to good use, it’s counter-productive.

What might be more helpful is to start a conversation about what sorts of responsibilities inhere in privilege and how to live them out.

For starters, there’s a responsibility to use privilege (and power) in pro-social ways.

But, beyond that, we should be talking about using privilege with permission. If “social responsibility” is something people with privilege do to those who don’t in order to salve their own consciences or impress their clients or friends, that’s not really so responsible, is it?

Let’s stop acting as if “changing the world” is a birthright and start asking how we can use our head starts to make things better.