The Problem with Privilege

My grandparents were tenant farmers who lived off their land and earned their income from the sale of milk to the state owned milk marketing board. My mum’s parents lived in St Davids and farmed just 7 cows that they milked by hand each morning and evening; they did not venture into England and never owned their own home. My parents met at teacher college having decided that a farmer’s life was not for them. We lived a modest life and my parents worked hard to bring up three boys who were not the easiest and got into their fare share of bother. To me this was not a privileged upbringing.

But I am starting to properly understand that privilege means much more, it defines the factors that give us an advantage or disadvantage in life. It defines how big a struggle may be needed to succeed. The obvious considerations are race, gender and sexuality; simply being a white, heterosexual male is to be of privilege. That group is less likely to receive comments about their skin, had to hide their sexuality or be sexually abused, assaulted or raped. Having parents that are heterosexual, still married or both still alive is of privilege. Not having physical, social or learning disabilities, having some resilience against mental health problems, feeling free to express religious beliefs, not being nervous in an airport security area, not being cyber bullied or simply being content with the identities we are born with are signs of privilege, and it has taken me some time to understand that. Being of privilege does not make someone a bad person of course.

For years since Gipsy Moth I have worked to help disadvantaged young people, those we used to refer to as under privileged. But perhaps we can make a bigger difference by advancing the notion that to be privileged is not to have been born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth, but to be born with an identity that gives an advantage in life. Perhaps to tackle under privilege we need to help more people understand what that actually means. I want to thank Neil Worrall and Bola Gibson for shining a light and giving me an idea.

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