Privilege Etiquette

Everyone holds privilege over someone: men over women, whites over POC, able over disabled, neurotypical vs aneurotypical, traditionally educated over non traditionally educated, rich over poor, the list goes on. How to properly handle the privilege you have in a constructive way? In a manner that doesn’t further burden the person over whom you hold privilege? Welcome to Privilege Etiquette!

When you say something like “I hate all men” as a man, to a woman who has just shared a negative experience with men, you are placing the burden on her. How? Because you are implying that you either A) aren’t like all men and therefore she should acknowledge that and/or B) you hate yourself, and therefore she needs to comfort you. This is not a theory, this is a fact. You may not be consciously doing it, in which case I urge introspection. What is a better reaction in the same scenario? “I’m sorry you went through that” will suffice, as it doesn’t place any burden on the person sharing and doesn’t press them for any reaction to *you* and *your* privilege. If they want to share more, simply listen. If you feel a surge of compassion and want to help, simply ask “What can I do to help?” It is imperative you refrain from going into your own experience unless the experience mirrors the other persons, ie. a trauma survivor shares her trauma and you share your experience, NOT a poc shares their experience with discrimination and you, a non poc, share your experience with “reverse racism”. It’s just rude and speaks to your massive lack of education, please refrain.

What about as a white person? Perhaps a white person who has a disability? You may hold privilege over a poc but be discriminated against because of your disability. How do you react to a poc who is abled when they are talking about their experience of discrimination? What if your poc friend says “I hate white people”? Please, do not chime in with “me too” because you will encounter the same problem as outlined above, placing the burned on your friend. Do you speak about your experience as a disabled person in reply? No! While your experience IS VALID, it is not comparable. How do I know? because you haven’t had your friends lived experience. Now if your poc friend was to go on about disability discrimination and liken it to their own experience, that’s a different story.

All of this requires conscious effort, but I promise, once you get into a habit of  being mindful about these things, you will have a much better time of it.


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