Nicole Chardenet in Lifestyle, Publishers & Bloggers Humorous Fantasy Novelist • (and occasional s**t-disturber) Aug 17, 2016 · 3 min read · 2.0K

How's *Your* Privilege?

How's *Your* Privilege?I heard a Pakistani immigrant girl on the CBC a few weeks ago complaining about racism in Canada. She told of how she was going to university and her new roommate said that 'Rule 1' of the household would be no cooking curry, because she couldn't stand the smell of it.

The ignoratus went on, over the course of the next few weeks, to make more ignorant statements based on assumptions of culture and race.

Still, I couldn't help but think, “Seriously? This is your worst problem here in Canada? Just how badly do you think you'd be treated if you still lived in Pakistan?”

That question was answered about a week later when a mouthy, opinionated, flirty, aggressive, feminist blogger in Pakistan (a woman after my own heart!), was murdered by her brother in an 'honour killing' because of 'racy' photos she posted of herself on social media. According to Pakistani feminists, over 1,100 women suffered 'honour killings' there in 2015.

And I remembered that whiny kid on the CBC and thought to myself, “Tell me again how bad you have it in Canada because your roommate is a bitch.”

Back in the ancient of days – as in, when I was her age – not every stupid bullying comment was a political cause célèbre. It certainly wasn't worthy of an interview on a national radio show.

I don't know if the young Pakistani girl appreciates how privileged she really is. Yes, despite being brown in a sometimes-racist culture. She's privileged enough to have swapped her Third World problems for some shiny new First World problems.

Yes, I dare to challenge her victimhood even enough I'm a <gasp!> white woman. Yes, I have unfair, unearned white privilege she hasn't got. Her father and brothers have unfair, unearned male privilege neither of us have. But now she's got First World privilege where she can go to school – university! - without worrying about insane fundamentalists spraying acid in her face.

Women in places like Pakistan don't deserve their low status, and it's unfair that the melanin-challenged here in the West have higher status than those with an abundance of it. I've never quite gotten what biology had to do with superiority, but it seems to hold an outsize importance for Trumpanzees and the whiny little boys known as 'men's rights activists'. People the world over are discriminatory and obsessed with that half-percentage of difference in our DNA.

I've been trying to unpack my privilege for several years now. In addition to being white and First World, when I was a kid, I came to realize just how lucky – excuse me, privileged - I was to be born in the twentieth century and in the United States, when I realized just how unfortunate children and women were who'd lived centuries or even just decades earlier, in the U.S. and in other places. Do you know what they did to accused 'witches' in Europe hundreds of years ago??? I was horrified to learn at seven. Later, in high school when I heard of other kids' parents who were alcoholics, drug abusers, and who were getting sexually molested by their fathers, I came to realize just how fortunate (privileged) I was to get two parents who wanted me and my brother, loved us fully, and did everything they could to help us. Birth privilege is a happenstance that anyone can be born into, anywhere – or not.

I fared pretty well in the genetic lottery too. So far, fingers crossed, no major health problems. As I get older that will likely change but I've lived far longer than a little girl I used to play with who died of leukemia at age four. On Christmas Eve. What did she do to deserve that? Or her parents?

I got let into Canada when others didn't, probably because of privilege – I had the education and job skills Canada was looking for. I had the money. I had the drive. Thirty-five thousand Syrian refugees now find themselves with new privilege as they settle down here in their new home. Where'd their privilege come from? A media obsession with their plight. (Bugger off, Yazidis. The media is soooo over ISIS refugees.) Not every Syrian refugee who wanted to come to Canada got here. Some of them are still sitting in refugee camps hoping to be privileged enough to enter some other country and leave behind the hellhole their own has become. (Where ISIS will treat them far, far worse than any white racist they encounter here.)

I don't deserve any of my privilege. Neither do you. And if you're reading this blog post, you're probably more privileged than you've ever imagined, O literate, educated, Internet-connected one. Regardless of colour, or gender, or gender identity, or class, or culture. Maybe you're poor. Maybe you live in a really racist state in the U.S. Betcha there's a Dalit in Calcutta who wishes he had it as good as you, even if you live in a trailer park and have to scrounge money from your cousins to pay for food every week. As a famous British comedy sketch once put it, “Luxury.”

People, white or not, male or not, don't like to think of their privilege. It messes with their sense of victimhood. And everyone aspires to be a victim, whether they actually are or not, because you never have to take responsibility for your own life but forever point the finger of blame at others. Just ask any Trumpanzee! But we all have privilege in one capacity or another. Some have more than others but pretty much everyone in North America has more than they deserve.

So, how's your privilege? How much have you unpacked yet?

How's *Your* Privilege?

Photo by Donald Judge on Flickr

Nicole Chardenet Sep 23, 2017 · #93

#92 Well spoken, Devesh. I plan to write a follow-up to this eventually as soon as things settle down here shortly on the, er, fifty shades of white privilege :) Inspired by a conversation I had last week with an Asian American at a Toronto tech conference who hadn't considered some of the legitimate grievances of the Trump voters. I considered that myself, this morning, trying to be more compassionate than I usually am toward them, wondering if there was something about their perspective I didn't understand. Since I didn't grow up in poverty and with a lack of decent education, I'm pretty certainly missing something.

But...growing up in the South during the civil rights era, having lived there for twelve years and gone to school there, I can see how much the South has held itself back from progress with its own regressive Civil War-era 'honor' code, its self-defeating fear of education, and its mind-numbing religious fundamentalism. Combine that now with its obsessive love affair with gun ownership, and your average Trumpanzee is far more of a threat to his fellow Trumpanzees than any Muslim terrorist.

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Devesh 🐝 Bhatt Sep 23, 2017 · #92

This is the second time i have read the word dalit today on bebee.

Their was a time when they were all regarded untouchables, now they are the most relevant political vote bank in numbers and significance, the biggest lobby in Govt personnel who have jobs of power reserved for them and the largest land grabbers and encroachers of Public property. But the privilege to voice casteism still stands, because in some parts of India they are still untouchable.
I could say that a dalit student commiting suicide is unwanted, simply because he is privileged as compared to the one suffering bonded labour + slavery + untouchability.. but no.
The problem exists.

The India Pakistan partition was a bloody one, the patriarchal societies here have been most oppresive earlier. India has been luckier with progress on women rights until now. But many women in urban India usually know of film stars tweeting on women rights rather than those working at the grass roots. But they will get there eventually, so it is a decent start.

Ref to the Pakistani girl, I still think, complaining about racism is part of the privilege. It is a way of finding one's voice. It is foolish, but she has the right and the opportunity.

She has initiated a dialogue which could lead to an admission of gratitude by her. There are cases where people silently suffer to prepare devious and/damaging means to get back. Happens everyday in oppressive societies. It is so very fragile here, just needs a spark and boom, the peaceful friendly place turns to crazys everywhere. We have been lucky with very few sparks. Your society has a lot of resolve, built on these very privileges.

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Nicole Chardenet Sep 23, 2017 · #91

#90 Hey Claire, thanks for stopping by and especially thank you for sharing my post! It does seem to have struck a nerve, largely positive, among people. I was listening to a Buddhist dharma talk the other night on YouTube where the speaker made the point, without referring to individuals or groups of people specifically, that it becomes too easy to blame others for our misfortunes when sometimes the problem is within ourselves. For sure, we are all victims at one point or another and to one degree or another, but it becomes too easy to blame everyone else, whether it's individuals or groups of people, when in fact you still have the power to fix yourself. And the good news is you DO have the power. You may always have to deal with stupid -isms, but when you take responsibility for yourself you suffer somewhat less when they happen. I for one am now brought down as low by a thoughtless sexist comment as some of my 'feminist' counterparts who make a much larger fuss than seems warranted.

People may try to make you feel low or inferior, but it only works if *you let them*.

Claire L Cardwell Sep 23, 2017 · #90

#82 @Nicole Chardenet - I've been exceptionally lucky in my life to a) have had the education to get myself out of trouble and b) have not had to go hungry.... Looking back at some of the events in my life I had to admit to myself several years ago that I was culpable too as I did put myself in the situation where the shit could hit the fan. Letting go and accepting that I had a part to play in most of the misfortunes of my life was a cathartic experience.

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Sunday Chinedu Sep 11, 2017 · #89

The privilege of our birth place is always meant to be just that which will give us the experiences we need to navigate through life. For those borne in societies where extremism strive and is the other of the day,you have to respond to life with knowledge. You may have to abandon your faith and people and move to other climes where civility is at it's peak. Here you must learn to draw inferences from where you are coming from. By so you will be thankful for every day.

Lyon Brave Sep 4, 2017 · #88

My privilege is okay

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Tricia Mitchell Jul 10, 2017 · #87

#86 I love your honesty @Nicole Chardenet "I was kind of a head case for several years but then started mellowing out as I approached fifty." I think we all need to go through some things to find and then really appreciate meditation/mindfulness.

No doubt you'll have some cracking stories to share ☺

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Nicole Chardenet Jul 9, 2017 · #86

#85 Depends on how you define it. I was kind of a head case for several years but then started mellowing out as I approached fifty. Don't know why; I figured maybe it was just hormonal...from what I've read and heard since, both genders tend to mellow out a bit in their fifties. Then last year I started getting into mindfulness and meditation and it's really helping a lot.

As for living life without regrets? Well hell, my goal in life is to have the best stories of anyone in the nursing home :)

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