Being privileged & being spoiled aren’t one & the same

After spending two years at Queen’s, I’ve noticed a convention that is deeply entrenched in our generation and not often addressed: we don’t discuss our privilege.

There’s an unspoken misconception in our culture that an acknowledgment of our privilege is an acknowledgement of our selfishness — that privilege equates with being spoiled.

Privilege is a systematic advantage that benefits one community while undercutting another, but spoiled describes a person whose lavishness and privilege goes unrecognized.

By equating one with the other, people often fail to accept their privilege. But they’re not the same thing.

Our individual identities are complex and intersectional, but we all occupy a position of privilege relative to someone else.

To deny that such inequalities exist and that we benefit from them works against having thoughtful conversations about where we benefit and others don’t. Such conversations can help everyone to gradually challenge the system that’s stacked against many of our peers.

I’m very aware of my personal privilege. I acknowledge that many of the demographics I belong to put me at a relative advantage in society — I’m a white student at a predominantly white university, with the financial comfort to attend Queen’s.

Whether I like it or not, I benefit from this system of oppression against diverse racial and socio-economic groups — indirectly, my privilege undercuts many other communities that fail to benefit in the same way.

I have no control over the colour of my skin, my gender or that English is my first language. But there are many more things I do have control over, such as my ability to be aware of the institutions that effect people in uneven ways.

As students at Queen’s, we’re privileged to have access to a university education, in a country with free healthcare, on a beautiful campus with world-class facilities.

Along with such opportunity comes the responsibility of opening up a discussion about the people who don’t benefit from the same advantages, and what that means for our society.

An acknowledgment of privilege is not a sign of selfishness or lack of respect. 

Leaving one’s privilege unrecognised would be to reap the rewards of such a system without acknowledging the way they work against other communities — that would be selfish.

Hopefully, the future for students is an environment where people make an effort to challenge the system that benefits some and undercuts others.

First, we need to check our privileges at the door.

Alex is The Journal’s Assistant Arts Editor. She’s a third-year Biochemistry student. 

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