Troubleshoot Tuesday: 3 Ways to Learn The P-Word

Whether you’re running a presentation for your job, doing a workshop for your community, or trying to have a conversation with that “friend” (you know which one I’m talking about), you may have to struggle with explaining the word that gets 25% of people’s back’s up: privilege.

(Note: I am not a statistician, so when I write “25%”, I mean, roughly, the amount of eye-rolling, pursed lips, frozen facial expressions, deep-diaphragm-groaning, and spirit-leaving-body experiences I feel with my spidey senses every time I drop the P-word in a crowd.)

In this first Troubleshoot Tuesday edition, I’m going to take you through three general kinds of ways to explain privilege while comparing the pros and the cons: checklists/flowers/etc., games and gaming analogies, and storytelling and group work activities. Some of these are better for discussions you’re quickly having at a party, while others make more sense if you’re training your collective that’s committed to social justice and solidarity work.

Regardless, always remember the objective: the point of explaining privilege is not to make people feel bad– it’s to realize the secret powers they never knew they had that can be used for the consensual benefit of their friends, loved ones, and communities.

That’s why I have a bit of a pet peeve with the term “check your privilege”– I always feel like what people mean to say is “hey bud, you’re not understanding the full context of how oppressive this situation might be and how you benefit from it unintentionally”. Maybe it would make more sense to say “Use your privilege to help me, not hurt me!” Not as catchy though, I know, but keep that in mind as you choose which method of explanation or teaching is right for you and your audience.

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