The word has slowly but surely edged into our common lexicon. It is a word that encompasses the social and financial capital that comes from being the top of the food chain, by way of the colour of your skin (usually of a light hue), by being able-bodied, by being cis, by being male…the list of privileges goes on.
It’s a word that has a heavy heritage steeped particularly in white supremacy, and it is often a word that is met with confusion, at best, and downright defensiveness and aggression, at worst.
Why such a powerful reaction, to a little, three-syllabic word?
It can be difficult to learn that your leg-up, by virtue of your skin colour, for example, paved the way for a lucrative career.
There is also the fear of losing one’s privilege; that by levelling the playing field, and dismantling notions of privilege, you are somehow sacrificing your own.
This is not the case.
Arlan Hamilton, a ‘gay black woman’ who founded Backstage Capital, a firm that exclusively funds women, people of colour and LGBTQ+ founders, explained privilege in a simple tweet:
There it is, in less than 240 characters.
If trying to understand sharing your inherent privilege, think: when someone shorter than you needs to see the stage better at a show, you usually let them stand in front of you, right? You both get to enjoy the show, it’s only a slight inconvenience, and you. don’t. shrink
Hamilton built her company from the ground up while experiencing homelessness. She’s Black and queer in America, a country that at present doesn’t particularly value either demographics. She knows what privilege looks like, because it was something she faced constantly in the process of building her business.
And think: now two people get to see the show, and that's double the people recommending to friends and family. The economy flourishes when there's an even playing field.
This article was originally published in August 2018