You like to think of yourself as a goods person. You tip wait staff well and almost always put your grocery cart away when you’re done with it. You go to school or work and pay your bills. Now someone has come along and informed you that much of your success is unearned and that your “good luck” is a system rigged in your favor. What do you do?
Try not to be defensive. Your status as privileged or unfairly societally favored may be a shock to learn, but the benefits remain. Hearing about male privilege won’t dock your pay. Learning about white privilege won’t make you lose it. As upsetting as the idea you’re not just better than other people may be, those others still have to live in a world that treats you as if you are.
Master the 101 stuff and move beyond it. Accept that you have more to learn and embrace the opportunity. Learn about the grievances of groups you have unearned social benefits over, and try to understand them.
Find someone to talk to.
If you’ve got some guilt or shame over past actions in relation to your privilege, by all means talk to someone about it. Choose a professional or close friend, but make sure they can cope with listening to you. If you were abusive to past girlfriends, I may want the warning but I cannot and will not help you work through your feelings over it.
Find someone to listen to.
Look for people who will help you grow, and practice the art of not turning everything into a debate. Learn from their insights. Choose someone not from your majority group for this.
Expand your media choices.
Subscribe to Black and Asian magazines. Read queer bloggers. Listen to disabled people’s podcasts. Watch chick flicks. Try to get fiction and nonfiction that amplifies a variety of voices.
Don’t take generalities personally. If a statement is not about you, don’t make it about you. If a movement is not about you, don’t make it about you. Make space and silence for the needs of others.