How Your Privilege Stinks Up The World

Large View of Your Privilege Stinks photo by Sira Hanchana via FlickrBecause Washington, DC is the closest thing to food truck heaven I’ve experienced, I jumped in a conversation my coworkers were having on the subject.  When someone praised the Ethiopian food truck, another person admitted that he hadn’t eaten Ethiopian food while in Ethiopia.

Assuming this person was joking – because how is that even possible – I asked him to elaborate.  He replied that he’d traveled with enough food for the entire trip and upon exhausting his supply days early, he starved.

His ability to travel to another country, shun the food and feel justified is a privilege mentality.

Privilege is an advantage that is unearned, exclusive, and/or socially conferred, and it’s immensely valuable to those who hold it.

To start, I’ll be the first to admit that I have privilege.  And to a greater or lesser degree everyone does.

Who Are The Privileged?

  • If you own a passport, you have privilege.
  • If you’ve ever flown on an airplane, you have privilege.
  • If you’re reading this post with your fancy internet connection, you have privilege.

It’s hard to imagine that Wi-Fi equals privilege, but only 40 percent of people have internet.  That means we have access to more information than 60 percent of the world.  Crazy, huh?

We’ve established who holds privilege; let’s discuss how we use it.

Mostly, Privilege Stinks

A lot of privilege is like a man drenched in cologne.  He’s so used to the scent he doesn’t smell it anymore.  Yet, everyone he walks past gags.

Yep, privilege stinks just like that.

What Do I Do With This Stinking Privilege?

Acknowledge Your Privilege.

Let’s stop pretending it doesn’t exist.  Once you realize that you’re drowning in privilege, you can stop overusing it!

Be Conscious of Your Privilege.

Privilege gives you an advantage over others.

Consider each baby born right now around the world.  Based on their country of birth, some have a better chance of being healthy.

Even in infancy, some of us are given a heaping, silver spoonful of privilege.

How does privilege affect travel?

Here’s an example: your nationality determines how much scrutiny you receive when traveling.  Another example: your sex determines how safe you are during solo trips.

I bet you can think of a few more.

The Pitfalls of Privilege

The privilege can trick us into behaving as if we are superior to others.

And as we visit other cultures, it manifests itself subconsciously as “that traveler”.

You know the one who checks an extra suitcase full of food, and starves instead of trying local cuisine.

Or the one who believes that everyone knows how to speak English.

Use Your Super Privilege For Good

  • Create real connections with those who don’t share your privilege.  Learn from them and acknowledge their truths.
  • Help others gain opportunities of their own.  One of my favorites is the Passport Party Project which has gifted passports to over 100 girls so they too can explore.
  • Alert people when they spray on too much privilege and it stinks up the trip.  Friends don’t let friends travel stupidly.

Remember: you don’t have to conquer privilege alone.  Seven billion people are on your team and we each must do our part to win this game.

I wrote this post.

You can share it.

And we’ll change the world one click at a time.