Confessions of a Privileged Millennial: What Can I Do? Four Steps To Make a Change
Sometimes I feel trapped in contradictory bubble. On the one hand I am a privileged, Caucasian Millennial living in “the happiest place on earth” and attending one of the least diverse California public universities. Yet on the other hand, I am overwhelming anxious and aware of the injustice that exists outside my illusive bubble.
As many Americans, my eyes have recently been opened to see the stress and anxiety that our divisive election and polarized country has placed on certain individuals in our society. And such a broken awareness is slowing transforming the way I view our world.
Before I go any further, I want to be clear that this post is not simply about the divisive election of Donald Trump. Rather— this post is about my growing recognition of a diversely beautiful, but unequivocally marginalized world around me.
This post is about me confessing that aside from the previous glimpses, brief insights and external observations I have had, I fail to understand even a percent of the precarious realities that so many marginalized groups in our society grapple with on a daily basis.
But most of all, this post is me saying that I want to do something.
I want to challenge the elitist perspectives inside my bubble (including my own) instead of biting my tongue. I want to take action rather than convince myself that my privileged hypocrisy would overshadow whatever meaningful message I am trying to communicate. I want to do more than say a passing prayer, share a Facebook article or spend hours conversing with like minded individuals who are equally as burdened and convicted as I am.
So, I want to take action and maybe if you are reading this post you do too (which is fantastic in my opinion)— but where do we begin? Well, in my famously Millennial way I am not entirely sure. Yet despite my bewilderment, I am confident that at least part of that complex question can be answered through thoughtful research and planning (which is exactly what I have been busy doing).
Four steps to start doing more:
Step 1: Learn how privilege works—the good and the bad.
I know privilege a word defined as “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people." I know that I am privileged, that privilege deeply affects marginalized groups and that privilege is a controversial topic—but beyond this, I am ashamed to admit that my knowledge on the depth of this topic is extremely limited.
All this to say: the first step in this process of doing more has to include educating myself on the good and the bad of privilege. Education on such a topic like privilege will inevitably be an ongoing process, but I would love to share a few of the thing I have and continue to do to educate myself on privilege:
1.) Unpack and understand my invisible knapsack. White Privilege: "Unpacking the Invisible Backpack" is a powerful questionnaire created by Peggy McIntosh that encourages people to identify some of the daily effects of white privilege in their life-I was so humbled by these questions. Click here to check out the questionnaire. Also, click here to view quite possibly the simplest, yet most effective comic strip representation of privilege.
2.) Learn, count and avoid racial micro-aggressions, or "brief and everyday slights, insults, indignities and denigrating messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned White people who are unaware of the hidden messages being communicated." Click here to learn more about racial micro aggressions.
3.) Educate myself on the history of white privilege by reading more history and research books such as: "Waking up White." Click here to check out books like "Waking up White."
Step 2: Learn how to lovingly point out privilege when I see it negatively affect the way someone views or interacts with certain individuals.
This step requires not only learning how to have a voice, but more importantly, learning how to use that voice responsibly.
Written by a "privileged" social worker, this article provides practical ways to talk about this dicy “privilege” topic with others. I strongly recommend reading the entirety of the article, but here are my key take aways:
1.) Lead the privilege discussion with empathy in order to get an understanding of individual experience.
People want to be acknowledged for their hardships; because no matter who you are or what level of privilege you have, we all still encounter trials.
Unfortunately however, many people object to talking about or admitting their privilege because they feel that doing so would negate their own precarious hardships.
This article recommends structuring your conversations about privilege to include the ways in which people have and do not have privileges. Research shows that structuring your conversation in such a manner may help people see how privilege can create a vicious cycle of oppression (instead of becoming defensive).
2.) Systematic injustice is good for no one.
“In order to move from a space of marginalization, people need to confront their privileges and recognize that inequality helps no one" - Kathleen Ebbitt
What does this mean? I think this means that rather than discussing this issue in a manner that pins certain groups against each other, arguably the best way to address privilege issue is to stop blaming, and to start acknowledging and challenging inequalities in our society.
3.) Guilt is not a necessary part of talking about privilege.
I will admit that I sometimes feel guilty talking about my privilege or challenging privilege in other people.
Oh the irony—the irony of the vicious privilege cycle. I steer away from openly talking about privilege because it makes me feel guilty for my inability to do anything in response.
Yet we each have the capacity to undermine a system of oppression and discrimination by objecting to accept our unchecked privilege and shift the status quo, so why would I steer away from the very act that gives me power to make a change?
Step 3: Become more politically involved.
In researching ways to become more politically involved, I stumbled upon this thorough article that includes 25 PRACTICAL ways to ACTUALLY get involved politically (whether you lean right or left).
Now while many us may want to tackle as many of these practical recommendations as we can, if my excessive collection of Psychology books have taught me anything it is that goals must be SMART (specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and time-based, time-bound). So it may be helpful to consider picking just a few ways to get more politically involved and finding tangible and realistic ways to accomplish those few goals.
For example, I want to reach out to marginalized groups in what I perceive to be a very "privileged" town. And using the SMART model, I am starting to brainstorm how I can best use my privilege to get involved and make a difference on student support committees at my college or with local K-12 school districts.
Lastly, getting involved is somewhat terrifying and I will admit that doing so continues to rattle me. Yet despite my terror of the unknown, I know that in order to truly “do more” I must first comprehend that my inability to make a radical change does not negate my ability to make small, yet meaningful contributions to the change I so deeply desire to see in this world.
Step 4: Stay informed on local and national news.
I put this as my last step, because frankly I feel it is the easiest (at least for me). But I still think it is important to expose myself to viewpoints that contradict and bolster my own.
One major way to educate myself means keeping up to date on the both local and national news. There are many reasons to educate myself, but some of my top reasons are:
- To be aware of what is going on in the world and how it is directly affecting marginalized groups.
- To put my privileged bubble in perspective.
- To accurately recognize and challenge false assumptions and propositions.
Despite my best efforts to locate nonpartisan news outlets, most news is biased. However—from researching this topic, I (not surprisingly) discovered that not all news is equal, but nevertheless that understanding the ideological spectrum that certain outlets lean towards and relying on those who remain relatively neutral is possible.
Two helpful links:
- Ideological chart by pew research center: