How do you see the privileges that you enjoy?

If it’s something you are born into like white privilege or cis privilege or economic privilege it seems that seeing it is much like a fish seeing water. We have no idea it’s there unless it is taken away from us.

One way this happens is with the privilege that comes with being able bodied, because if you live long enough you will eventually learn what it is like to be unable to do things that you have always taken for granted. You may never truly understand what it would have been like to never be able bodied but you may begin to understand.

Another way that you can see the water you were born into is to get to know someone who does not have the same privileges as you. You can do this by getting to know someone personally and learning about their life and really being mindful of the ways people behave toward them and the opportunities that you may have had that they did not. You can also begin to see the water by really seeing the stories of people. This is the magic of media. This is why it matters when people share their stories. Will I ever truly understand what it would be like to be unable to marry the one I love and worry that they would lose our home and children if I died? Of course not. But watching the stories of people who live those fears and deal with those inequities does show me my privilege if I let it.

If I can put myself in other people’s shoes, even a little bit, I can begin to see the water I was born into.

For me, identifying and really being aware of the ways in which I do not have privilege have helped me understand others lack of privilege. They may be different privileges but once I could see the ways in which I did not have the same rights and opportunities and most importantly identify how that made me feel, I could more fully have compassion and understanding for that feeling in others.

When I run across people who are part of a group for whom privilege is withheld and society finds it acceptable for them to be treated “differently” who do not see they are doing the same thing to others it’s very disheartening. How can you cause suffering in others that you have known the pain of?

I think that part of the issue for those who hold some privileges and not others is that they can have an attitude of entitlement, as if in this other area they are entitled to treat others badly. What they do not understand is that while they are possibly harming those they treat shabbily, they are without a doubt harming themselves with their attitudes and behaviors.

The key to being happy is to be a compassionate person with an understanding of the interconnected nature of all of us. Each time we treat someone else badly it causes us stress and suffering we may not even notice because that too is like a fish seeing the water it was born to.


About Veronica
Veronica Grace is a writer/editor for and a pragmatic idealist mother to two sons, one who has rudely determined he will become a teenager without her permission and the other who wouldn't notice the world ending as long as he had a book in his hands. She holds equality, honesty and compassion among her highest ideals and has found herself currently obsessed with gender roles and practical minimalism. She is always obsessed with why people do the things they do. She is attempting to learn the mysteries that are the twitterverse @vsassypants

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