Two fundamental assumptions inform my position on privilege: I hold at least some forms of it, and I will never be able to relinquish it. The color of my skin, how much money my parents make, and the fact that I’m a man are probably not going to change. And the value assigned to those traits is undue—often manifesting itself in ways that don’t just help me, but hurt others.
As much as I would like to believe that the only determinant of my success is how hard I work, that is simply not America’s reality. I can’t say I’ve ever explicitly noticed my privilege, but that’s the reason it’s so difficult and essential to combat. Walking around oblivious to the harm it causes doesn’t excuse me from having to do something about it. I have never wanted to be an innocent bystander in the war against inequality, and that cannot change just because this bias is often implicit and, therefore, much harder to root out.
So, yes, privilege does exist, but I have an obligation to use it to dismantle its regime. Privilege is a tool I must take advantage of in the same way I use my intellect or my aptitude. My truth, which I have chosen to accept, is that I can’t stop being white, but I might be able to help curb racial injustice. I can’t stop being straight, but I can work to end discrimination against people who aren’t. Just like how Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in the 1960s, I can use whatever power the system bestows upon me to first step up, and then step back, allowing others the moment in the sun they have worked for but not yet enjoyed.
I hope you join me.