Jill's blog: Privilege vs Luck
One Saturday morning we were looking for something to do with the kids and I suggested to my husband that we go check out Mercedes Benz World. It’s not too far from us, I’ve heard good things about it, and we have never been before.
When telling my 6-year-old the plan I informed him that there were little electric cars he can drive around. He asked what else there was to do, commenting that he hoped there was a lot of things there otherwise it would be boring. As I began to tell him that if it was, we could always … he interrupted me with “I know, I know we can always go somewhere else.”
Initially I replied saying that the fact that we could just go somewhere else wasn’t an option for everyone and that we are lucky. A split second later I had the realisation that it is not luck that allows us to go somewhere else, it’s privilege.
Both my husband and I grew up in financially stable families, are well educated, have great jobs, are white, heteronormative people, and the opportunities afforded to us are very directly related to those facts. It doesn’t discount our personal capabilities to sustain our life. The fact that we are able to maintain it comes down to us continuing to work, and succeed, and deliver in our jobs and personal life. But the fact remains it is our privileged background that laid the groundwork for us to be able to just go somewhere else if we want to.
So, what is luck and what is privilege?
Luck is that moment your name is pulled out of the raffle drum. Privilege is what allows your name to be inside the drum in the first place.
The thing about luck is that it takes the onus off of you. It makes your situation seem otherworldly, almost divinely inspires. And yes, there are certain elements of the divine in all things, but confusing luck with privilege completely disregards the inequalities in the world that we are working towards levelling.
It can also lead a person to not put effort into situations. If a person sees themselves as lucky, they may perhaps attract luck, but they may also rely so intensely on that idea that they never push themselves or take active steps to progress.
The same things can be said about privilege. If you are used to being able to be in certain places or behave in certain ways due to the colour of your skin, your financial status, upbringing and/or gender identity you might always fall back on the expectations this privilege has afforded you.
Acknowledging privilege is not a negative thing. It’s about understanding the way society operates. The advantages, unfair or otherwise, that some people are afforded based on post code or genetics. It doesn’t take away from what your skills are, what your capable of, who you truly are. Which is also important to remember because you are a human and at the end of the day, life is about humans. It’s not about stuff or status. It’s who people are at their heart. And neither privilege nor luck guarantees you a good heart.
If there is one thing this experience taught me it’s that I want my children to understand what privileges they have been afforded, and how we can use our privilege to make things better for others. To do our part to level the playing field. To include those who have been othered. To support though who haven’t been granted privilege or luck. Because if “the measure of a man is what he does with power” (Plato) we must use the power of privilege to strength the hearts of ourselves and those around us.
Jill is an American ex-pat living her best English life on the border of London and Surrey. She spends her days pretending she knows what she’s doing, creating some fun things along the way. With a passion for storytelling and the gumption of a New Yorker, she’s raising two cheeky, clever boys with deep imaginations and an annoyingly cunning use of language. With a husband, cat and hamster along for the ride, life is never boring. Even if sometimes a bit too stressful.