Today’s big idea is that there is privilege in being all charged up to get back to normal life, where we are leaving the house and interacting with others on the regular again. There is privilege in that excitement and that is helpful to acknowledge now.
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Privilege is enjoying advantages that are based solely on things you have no control over. Like your skin color, your sexual orientation, your gender, and your mental and physical health. So privilege relates to race, but it extends beyond that, too.
Having privilege is not a good thing or a bad thing
Meaning, if you’re born white, heterosexual, and without and neurological or physical challenges, you enjoy a lot of privilege in this world that prioritizes white, heteronormative people. And that doesn’t make you a good person or a bad person. It’s just a fact.
But it can make you see the world in a way that does not reflect the reality of large groups of other people. Just because you’re pumped about getting back to some form of normal life, many people aren’t. And being aware of that is going to make you a more empathetic. Dare I say better–person.
Here’s an example:
Fisher Nash recently wrote in the Style section of the New York Times,
“I’m glad there is hope around the corner for so many people. But I dread the return of prepandemic life. This year has been a gift to me. I am autistic, and crowds, loud sounds and the threat of people standing too close to me in public spaces are overwhelming and keep me in a constant state of stress. This year, for the first time in my adult life, I have been calm. It’s like the world created a disability accommodation just for my autism.”
I’ve read similar stories from black people, who noticed in lockdown that their stress levels and anxiety came down because they weren’t out in the world where they were subject to microaggressions and fear.
Of course, I’ve read stories too of folks who have used the pandemic to transition from one gender to another. And they are excited and relieved that they didn’t have to do that in the public eye. They can literally come out as their preferred gender this summer.
If you are just raring to get back to big weddings and concerts and dinner parties and group activities, there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s a privilege. It could be, but isn’t limited to white privilege. Maybe it’s the privilege of being an extrovert in a world that considers extroversion to be normal. Maybe it’s the privilege of being one of the 82% of people who don’t experience social anxiety. Or maybe it’s the privilege of not being autistic.
While privilege isn’t bad, it’s important to acknowledge it
So you can remember that if you encounter someone in your newfound “out there ness” who’s prickly. Or you invite a friend to go out with you and they decline, it’s not about you. Those folks are experiencing the return to life in a way that you aren’t. And perhaps you can use your feeling good to be back out there to do something to make the folks who are feeling trepidation more comfortable. Or not. You don’t have to be the Welcome Wagon. But you can be aware. And you can honor other people’s experiences.
Remember how, after Trump was elected, people would wear safety pins as a covert sign that it anyone were feeling uncomfortable in public, they could trust the safety pin person to be an ally? Maybe we should bring that back. But even if you don’t have any kind of obvious sign that you care about people of all kinds feeling safe out in the world, you can keep in mind that some folks might be struggling with the return to leaving the house on the regular, and do what you can to make others feel safe and give other folks a big helping of grace in case they aren’t feeling as excited and comfortable as you are.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Your tiny assignment is to think about where you enjoy privilege in your life. It’s hard to see, but most of us have some level of privilege that maybe we haven’t ever realized we had before.
So you have it, what are you gonna do with it? One of my better person mantras is use your power for good, and you could swap out power here for privilege. If you see someone conducting some form of microaggression, can you make a display of support for the person who’s on the receiving end of that? If you talk to a co-worker who expresses some nerves about returning to the office, could you get curious about why they might be feeling that way? As we re-emerge, we also have an opportunity to re-imagine what normal is. Thinking about how others are experiencing the world will help you be a force for making that re-imagining more inclusive and equitable for everyone.
Thanks for listening this week. I hope you have a great weekend.
And before you go, is someone in your life graduating this spring?
Give them the gift of wisdom that they don’t teach in school and that will serve them well for the rest of their lives by giving them a copy of the book, How to Better Person. It offers 401 ways to make a difference in yourself and the world. It has been called a “loving kick in the pants” and “uplifting without brightsiding.” I recognize that there aren’t many occasions where it’s a good idea to give a gift called How to be a Better Person, but graduation is most definitely one of them.
How to Be Better Person is available wherever books are sold, and if you’d like to give a signed copy, use the contact kate button at beabetterpersonpodcast.com to send me the graduate’s name and your address, and I’ll send you a personalized book plate you can attach to the inside cover.