Typically, we think of the word when something is awarded to someone. And while that is what the word means at the core, the definition has an entirely different context when dealing with social issues.
Put simply, privilege means that some people — because of race, socioeconomic status, handicaps, abuse, sexual orientation or gender — face different obstacles in life that set them back in ways that others may never have to face. That doesn't mean people who aren't black or handicapped, or instance, didn't work hard to get where there are — it just means their experiences were different.
Everyone is privileged and unprivileged in certain ways — men are more privileged than women, people who can walk are more privileged than those who need a wheelchair (of almost 500 subway stops in New York City, only 100 are handicap accessible) — and accepting that means that we're able to put ourselves aside and build a fairer society for those who face these obstacles.
To illustrate this point, BuzzFeed Video had a few of its team members stand in a line and take steps forward or back based on responses to certain questions that illustrate advantages or disadvantages in life.
The visuals were telling.
They started off on the same level.
But then the questions (aka life) took their toll on every person differently.
Questions that related to the struggles of LGBT community.
"One of the reasons I ended up so far back because there was questions about safety. As an African-American women, as a woman, as a gay woman, there are so many different ways that I don't feel safe."
This isn't to say that people can't achieve success and overcome their obstacles in spite of their lack of certain privileges. But those are exceptions. Accepting our privileges is the only and best way to empathize and help others.
Are you in?