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Owning Privilege

Posted April 7th, 2011 by cws_mcqu

Whenever someone makes a mistake or does something wrong that might affect others, the world expects us to take responsibility for it and own up to it. In a sense, this is very similar to the way privilege works. In our world, there are millions of beneficiaries of societal constructs which define who will be the advantaged and disadvantaged group in society. This is something that is out of the control of most, but is reinforced by institutions and society as a whole.  Although it is not intentional, it is imperative that we analyze where we fit in, and recognize the areas that we are the beneficiaries. By recognizing advantage, you are owning it, and can then learn how to use it to make this community more inclusive.

Personally, I have been working with this idea of owning privilege throughout this school year, but I focus on both the way I present as well as I self identify. I identify as being a man, from middle class, able bodied, straight, biracial, and a young adult. Based on these identities, I fit into an area of society where I have a lot of societal privilege. Sadly, this affects many of the relationships that I have with other people. The main identity that I act in accordance to on a day to day basis on campus is being a man. This is my most salient identity around OSU. Late at night, if I am walking down the street and notice that there is a woman in front of me, I might stop or cross the street to make sure that I do not make her feel uncomfortable. My privilege of being a man has given me the ability to not worry about walking around by myself at night because most sexual assaults involve women and are initiated by men. Another example of understanding my privilege would be in a conversation with a woman or a group of women. Being a man, I am taught from my youth and my experiences that I am supposed to dominate a conversation, so I acknowledge that and try to take a step back. I make sure that I am hearing what everyone else has to say, and I understand that if I talk over people or abuse my identity, I will push people out of the conversation, hurt people emotionally, and reinforce societal constructs. I try to create a safe environment for all participants, and show them that I really do care that they are there and want to be heard.

Another identity that I deal with a lot while on campus is my race. Being biracial, I have some privilege because my mom is white, but my dad is a person of color. When I have an encounter with someone else whether it is someone who identifies as being white or identifies as a person of color, I first look at myself and my identities to understand where I stand in the scope of privilege. I recognize where I may do something or say something that may take over or push that person away, and I also notice where I might start to feel like I am being pushed away or uncomfortable. If I feel like I do not have privilege in a certain situation, I try harder to make the conversation more equal, and I try to avoid topics that may lead to me feeling uncomfortable.  With all of this said, however, I will begin to open up once I understand that the person I am talking to creates a safe environment for me to partake in.

I feel like the number one thing we can do as people to move closer to social justice is to first understand where we as individuals have privilege. We must own it and recognize how it will affect our relationships with other people. Then we can move from there and create more of a safe environment for others that may not be beneficiaries of societal privilege. In the residence halls, a safe and comfortable feeling is obviously an important feeling to have to be successful on a day to day basis. Although we cannot end institutionalized prejudice in one step, this is another step towards breaking it down.

Kameron Beeks
Community Relations Facilitator – Eastside
RHA Liaison

The comments shared by the Community Relations Facilitator program are strictly the point of view from the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of UHDS. If this article has inspired a desire to dialogue, the author, or another CRF and/or any Resident Assistant, Resident Director or CoOp Director would be happy to participate. Please contact Nina Gassoway ( to assist in making arrangements.

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