We are all aware of the increasing discours about diversity and inclusion in many spheres of life. A lot has been said and discussed, but where should we start in order to really increase our awareness and actively support the change towards a more inclusive society?
To support diversity and inclusion, understand privilege first!
Privilege is the advantages enjoyed by a group, beyond what’s available to others. It is institutional, not individual, and largely invisible to those who have it.
So what does privilege look like?
You’re college educated. You haven’t been labelled a “diversity hire.” You don’t worry about sexual harassment. If you lose your job, you know there will be another. You’re not financially supporting a family. You have a partner who takes care of your children. You can talk about your religion. You feel comfortable speaking up in meetings. You see yourself in leadership.
We are all situated differently in opportunity structures: age, citizenship, education, gender, language, ability, race, religion, sexual orientation and socio-economic class. Reflecting about yourself and creating a personal checklist/map helps to open your eyes about your own privileges and realise that not all underrepresented groups have the same experiences.
Here an example for a checklist: Privilege Checklist – Social Justice Training (google.com)
The writer Bell Hooks said, “Privilege is not in and of itself bad; what matters is what we do with privilege.” Here are three steps you can take:
Think about it. Part of the work is committing to self-education. It also means listening to and learning about other people’s challenges.
Talk about it. Let’s get comfortable being uncomfortable. Challenge others, ask questions, support movements, invite perspectives and exchange data.
Act on it. Amplify voices, decenter yourselves and support underrepresented groups to speak, write and teach. Use your privileges to empower those that have less privileges.
Because only when we understand our own privilege can we understand others’ lack of privilege — and support diversity and inclusion.