A friend posted a video about privilege to her Facebook page. The video makes you think about whether you come from a privileged background or had to fight to get where you are in life. The video is thought provoking, but I disagree with some aspects of their experiment. Most specifically, I think there is a difference between privilege, as in something handed to you because of who you are and something you have worked for.

Per Merriam-Webster Dictionary, privilege is:
• a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others
• a special opportunity to do something that makes you proud
• the advantage that wealthy and powerful people have over other people in a society

For the purpose of this discussion, the first definition is in question. One of the questions determining privilege is whether you have ever gotten a job because of someone you know. If you have, then that is a mark of privilege, and if that person is mommy or daddy and the job is with the family company, I agree. You are privileged. But if that job is the result of putting in the work to network outside your social class or comfort zone, those contacts came from taking control of your destiny. Those contacts and that job are not the result of privilege but work.

The same goes for whether you now live in a good neighborhood, can afford health care or nutritious food. If someone else is paying for those things for you, yes, you are privileged. If you prioritize your life to make sure those needs are met. If you sacrifice other givens, such as having money to go out to the movies, the ability to buy new clothes instead of used or the ability to save for retirement to take care of the needs of today, I don’t see that as privilege. Those are choices.

Even the ability to afford to choose how to spend that money is often a choice. For most of us, we have the choice to rise above our station or to stay in our comfort zone. Why do you think so many poor are still poor? Often it is because they know how to be poor. They are scared to move out of that status. Their friends are poor. Their family is poor. If they grow beyond poor, they will no longer be accepted as part of their social network. They will be considered stuck up and too good for their friends and family, in part because they had to make choices that are foreign to their loved ones.

If your friends and family are more concerned with having fun, whether that fun is legal or illegal, or giving to the church, or taking care of elderly family members than you are, then your choice to do other things, like save for a house, buy health insurance or move to a better neighborhood, as trying to pull away. You can end up ostracized, or at the very least, they may never understand your choices.

How is that privilege?

Too often privilege is an excuse other people use to explain why you have something they don’t. Ignore the question and live your life as if it isn’t a competition. It is yours to live as you see fit. You can better your station in life or stagnate in the same place you were born. The decision is yours, just don’t bitch about what you don’t have or what you sacrificed if you aren’t willing to do anything about it.