Sharing your privilege doesn't mean taking away anything from yourself. It means adding to someone else. And that's the beauty and benefit of privilege, not for ourselves, but for other people. Ijeoma Oluo, who wrote "So You Want to Talk About Race", said, “When we identify where our privilege intersects with someone else’s oppression, we’ll find opportunities to make real change.” It can be helpful to reflect on that – how does my privilege (from whatever identity or status I hold in a given environment – work, family, society) potentially interact with the oppression of someone else – whether I’m aware of it, choose it, or not.
Seriously, sit down and think about the privileges that you have: not from a standpoint of shame and blame, especially if you happen to be a white male. I don't want you to think about privilege in terms of beating yourself up. Spending a lot of time in “feeling bad” allows you to let yourself off the hook for making real change. I invite you to think about your privilege in terms of, “Wow, what can I do to help someone else?” That is the perspective of knowing and growing through your privilege.
Yes, we can find privilege in anything if we think about it long enough. Here's the key: privilege can be used to include, and privilege can be used to exclude. Which side of the equation do you want to be on?
Noam Chomsky, a cognitive scientist and linguist, said, “Responsibility I believe accrues through privilege. People like you and me (white men) have an unbelievable amount of privilege and therefore, we have a huge amount of responsibility. We live in free societies where we are not afraid of the police; we have extraordinary wealth available to us by global standards. If you have those things, then you have the kind of responsibility that a person does not have if he or she is slaving seventy hours a week to put food on the table…”
So, as we celebrate Labor Day, let’s seriously consider our personal privileges and the privilege of choosing the selfless act of laboring for justice as a labor of love.