As with so many of my posts, this started off as a comment, replying to @clareartista's podcast about privilege. Also, as happens often in my brain, that quickly turned into a response to a whole lot of people/arguments/etc... so I turned it into a full post of its own instead of hijacking her comments :-)
This one all just came out in a stream of consciousness, so I may edit it after re-reading/based on your comments, but I will of course make the list the edits, for the sake of transparency. Instead of looking around for image(s) that feel like they fit with this post, I'm simply going to sprinkle in some videos on the topic by folks with varied & opposing stances on privilege.
Privilege is the Word of the Decade
Privilege is quite an interesting concept, though one I find to be wildly over-applied & mis-used in the wake of the takeover of academia by post-post-modernist ideologues. In the current usage, most people simply mean "unearned benefit," which is very much not what the word means in a legal or historical sense. (Another big part of the push of these ideologues has been attempts to re-write the English language into one that better fits their religion of Power.)
Etymology of the word:
mid-12c. "grant, commission" (recorded earlier in Old English, but as a Latin word), from Old French privilege "right, priority, privilege" (12c.) and directly from Latin privilegium "law applying to one person, bill of law in favor of or against an individual," in the post-Augustine period "an ordinance in favor of an individual, privilege, prerogative," from privus "individual" (see private (adj.)) + lex (genitive legis) "law" (see legal (adj.)). Meaning "advantage granted" is from mid-14c. in English.
So, for most of its use (both in the past and currently) this word specifically has to do with the State giving one person/group the ability to do something that others can't - or attempts by the State to take away peoples' rights (like traveling) and replace them with "privileges" which can be taken away at any time (like people being tricked into signing "Drivers License" contracts, giving up their freedom of travel.)
Since it is generally safe to assume (based on the current context) that people are referring to the PPM definition, of simply unearned benefit - it's important for us to realize that modern humans have unheard of privilege compared to 99.999% of humans who have ever existed. Zooming in from the whole species, Americans are by far the most privileged population (large-scale) that has ever existed (as far as we know - obviously we only have access to the last 0.5% of our history.)
The corporate/government schools, media, and talking heads have done a LOT of work over the past decade or so, convincing millions that the problem with privilege is that people with one skin color have it, and people with other skin colors don't. Obviously, there is some truth in that - though it is also a myopic & wildly over-simplified version of reality. This is done to remove as much attention as possible from the fact that there a couple thousand people on the planet who actively oppress, violate, and defraud all of humanity (some big privilege), and their violent thugs are privileged with extorting, kidnapping, assaulting, and murdering anyone who steps out of line, doesn't pay the protection racket, or lives in a country without an IMF central bank.
Since there is no way to eliminate privilege in the unearned sense (everyone is born with & without a variety of privileges, and continue to receive & not receive others through their childhood and adult life... Maybe a more nuanced & focused approach is called for. Maybe we should start by removing the institutional violence that created modern "racism" to divide & conquer its subjects. As long as the State remains, and that small group of people is allowed to steal from everyone ("taxes"), kidnap & extort people ("policing"), and commit genocide against others ("war"), it's impossible to know which other pieces of the puzzle are simply a result of that violence that is the core of "modern" society.
As I've put forth many times recently in conversations around BLM/racism/police... The complete & sudden removal of racism is not only impossible (without literally brainwashing everyone on the planet - because it is just a logical inconsistency, a brain virus), but even if we could... Doing so without eliminating the State (or rather the belief in violent authority, moral subjectivity, and tribalism that leads people to support & defend the State) will result in the exact same number of police murders, people in cages, and folks on the street without food: the percent of those people, divided up by skin color, would simply match up per capita, with the larger population.
Personally, I don't see a more equitable distribution of oppression as being any kind of improvement.
Until someone can show me a model for assessing people's privilege that takes into account all of their trauma, unmet childhood needs, government indoctrination, physical differences, personal choice & responsibility throughout life, etc... I don't see this idea as any different from other forms of racism. (Speaking to the misunderstanding that most seem to have that privilege only exists as "white privilege," that all light-skinned people have it, and that all dark-skinned people don't.)
EDIT #1: Some Potential Privileges
If we are to attempt to address/identify the various kinds of privilege that exist (again, using the extremely loose, more recent definition: unearned benefits), we first have to realize that for any of these privileges (or lack thereof), there is actually going to be a spectrum - not a binary.
7.5 Billion people can't be so easily categorized as rich or poor, white or black, etc. What I'd like to do now is explore just a few of those spectra, and what makes them so much more complicated than simple have/have-nots. Not all of these things have the average person considered as a privilege, but they certainly fit the definition of being un-earned, un-chosen even, and having a profound effect on one's life based on their presence, or lack thereof.
- "Race" - Let's start by simply putting it, the idea of categorizing & pre-judging someone based on the pigment of their skin or what part of the world their ancestors may have come from, is the sign of a profound level of naivete, ignorance, and most often programming. Since there are still people (and organizations made up of people) who still function from this place, I'll address it as an existing factor. The way in which one's "race" affects their life depends a lot to do with various other factors: most notably location (are they living somewhere in Africa? Australia? China? Haiti? Texas? New York? Detroit? Seattle?) & socio-economic class/status (which will be addressed more below.)
- Childhood/Family - Did this personal come from a multi-generational family home? Single mother? Married couple... that are abusive? Parents died young, but raised by compassionate, peaceful humans thereafter? Siblings? Deaths of family members in early life (especially if witnessed)?
- Socio-Economic Class - Regardless of where you fall on the cross-section of those first two categories of privileges, this one is going to have a huge impact. Remember, minimum wage at a full-time job in the US Inc. puts one in the top 1% of income-earners globally. Did they go to government indoctrination camps, receive no formal education, or attend expensive private schools and ultimately end up in Skull & Bones? Did they have servants as a child? Do they live in a half-finished concrete building? Are their parents members of the CFR, IMF, or some other alphabet organization? Did their parents/family work to get where they are? Was there luck involved? Crime?
These are just 3 of the most obvious categories of privilege that come to mind, and already it becomes clear that it would take a huge amount of time, reflection, research, and self-awareness just to learn & map all of this about one person, to truly know someone else's (or your own) privilege.
It's interesting that the current conversation always seems to revert back to that skin color question, and then assume that everyone with that particular skin color has the same privileges, or lack thereof.
If you can tell what someone's life has been like, their challenges & gifts, their trauma & healing, all just by looking at them: you clearly need to make a business out of that magical super-power.