Navigating Through Privilege

Updated: Jul 29, 2021

* Before continuing with this blog, I want to take a moment and explain that I am a privileged person myself. I am a heterosexual, cisgendered female, coming from a middle-class family, and I come from Mexican American ancestry. That being said, I know where I stand in society, and I am able to notice what comes easy for me and what privileges others have.



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What is privilege? To demonstrate a visual of privilege, I would like to use the privilege-oppression wheel. As a social work student, we are taught the reality of privilege and of the oppressed. As demonstrated by the wheel, we can see how exclusive they are. Privilege put simply, a series of unearned package of benefits given to people that fit into a specific social group. (For more information on privilege, click on this link).


But how do we educate on privilege? How many times have we all imagined confronting a privileged person to their face and explaining, “You are able to be this ignorant because of your privilege.” It is not that easy. In their Ted Talk, Sue Borrego stated, “Every day my whiteness is re-affirmed in multiple ways at the expense of my friends and family of color who are rendered more invisible.”


Sue Borrego also explained there is difficulty in overcoming the defensive response when someone’s own privileged is acknowledged. How can one be privileged when they have also endured difficulty? We can do this by explaining one’s place in the Privilege-Oppression Wheel grants them conveniences that are not as accessible to BIPOC populations. "BIPOC" is an acronym for "Black, Indigenous and people of color," and further explanation of the term can be read here. We can take a moment to point out the inheritance of wealth, and the income gap between white and BIPOC communities. We can cite sources like the health disparity among maternity care, health care coverage, representation in the media. We can bring notice of the smaller amount of BIPOC populations in higher education settings, as compared to the larger amount of BIPOC in prison systems.


Now, those in privileged positions are also able to make a difference as well. With that privilege and spot in the "inner circle", those in privileged positions can speak up and educate those around them. Dr. Joy DeGruy explained in her segment, "A Trip to the Grocery Store," that those with privilege can create a difference by making efforts and pointing out injustices in their surroundings. When someone with privilege addresses their privilege in a public setting, it can set the tone and change the room. When those that are privileged take a moment to recognize and educate on inequality, they can impact those around them and reform.


When confronted with someone who is unable or unwilling to recognize their position of privilege, we can practice self-care and self-love. Here are some tips on what to do in situations when you are triggered by others and their privileges. Keep in mind we all have our own process, and we learn what works best for us.


1. Taking care of your physical form.

The body carries stress. Remember the mind and the body are one, so when we allow stress and trauma caused by racism that we experience, witness, and learn about, it can take form in our bodies. Stay hydrated, eat when you feel like you need to, get away from your screens and get some fresh air and sunshine from outside. Most of all, rest. Your body will let you know when you are exhausted, listen to it.



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2. Build Connections.

We need to stay connected to one another. We all have similar experiences, and therefore we can all support one another. Even in times of the pandemic, we learned ways to stay connected. If you have a moment during the day, take some time to catch up with a friend or loved one. Also, build connections within the community. Support BIPOC-owned businesses, BIPOC artists, support legislation that will empower those communities. Support your LGBTQIA friends and family. Support your family and your loved ones, supports everyone outside of the wheel, we all need it.



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3. Practice mindfulness.

If you are in a moment of frustration, anger, sadness, overstimulation; take a breath. If you can, step outside and take a deep breath. Take in a big inhale and hold for seven seconds, exhale for eight seconds. You can do this a few times until you feel centered enough to focus.

For myself, when taking in a deep breath I try to make sure I am standing as I take my breath in, starting with the center of chest and moving the breath into my shoulders. In stressful or anxious situations, my shoulders seem to rise with my stress level, so I take a moment of mindfulness breathing to bring myself and my body back into focus. Again, the body and the mind are connected.

For more mindful techniques in additions to other breathing mediations, here is a helpful link.



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4. Education.

Education is the best way to empower yourself and those around you. We need to stay up to date on current events, legal policies, what is happening in our local community, what is happening around that world that needs our attention and our support. When we educate ourselves, we have the power to take that knowledge and spread to our surroundings. We plant little seeds, and they will grow and grow. We spread the knowledge, we spread the power.



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5. Reflection.

Like mindfulness, we need to take a moment for ourselves to reflect. We need to take a moment to reflect on our feelings, our thoughts, our actions. If we are to encounter a moment where someone utilizes their privilege, we can always take a moment to reflect on their actions, explore how we can be better, and educate them on their privilege. Reflection does not have to be thoughts only, it is possible to reflect by journaling, talking with a group of peers, and even creating art that reflects your feelings with privilege.



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Navigating through privilege is a difficult journey. It is something that intersects with our communities, our bodies, our lives, and it is something we are still attempting to get a hold on. What we can understand is that privilege is unfair and real. It is something that has been created and exclusive, but as we always do, we can overcome.


Here are some of the resources I used to put this blog together:


Privilege/ Oppression Wheel

Understanding My Privilege, Sue Borrego/ TEDxPasadenaWomen

The Power of Privilege, Tiffany Jana/ TEDxRVAWomen

Cracking the Codes: Dr. Joy DeGruy, "A Trip to the Grocery Store"

Black Therapists Self-Care Tips

9 Conventional (and Not So Conventional) Mindfulness Techniques of Top Performers


What are some ways that you navigate through privilege?


Share any thoughts or tips with us at:

intern@bmhconnect.com


Best wishes as always,


Ari the Intern


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