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21 May 2011

Teaching Privilege

Maybe we sociologists have been going about teaching privilege wrong. It's a concept that many find difficult to swallow, and understandably so. The way we do it now, we're basically telling our white students and our male students that their successes do not belong to them, and I think this might be counterproductive. Perhaps it would be better if we taught instead that they can own their success but that others should not be forced to own all of their shortcomings. Being black and being a woman--and God forbid, being a black woman!--puts people at a disadvantage socially. Privilege is about relative advantage. By telling white men that all of the good things in their lives are an undeserved fluke, we almost guarantee that they will be resistant to the concept. Instead, if we present it as the undeserved disadvantage experienced by others, the privileged will be more able to remain open to understanding the concept.

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