Sunday, 7 January 2018

Acknowledging Privilege.

Hello Readers.
About a few years ago while I was preparing to defend my final year project, I made an unusual decision to dedicate my Thesis to :
'All Secondary school leavers who couldn't afford tertiary education ' . My Project Supervisor - a well-meaning 'godly' Professor - found it alarming.
'Why not dedicate it to God' he asked with that air that comes with being a Nigerian Professor,his tone filled with condemnation rather than suggestion.
'Sir' I said flatly 'I know alot of secondary school leavers who wanted Tertiary Education but couldn't not afford it because of some circumstances (background and gender and what have you) and the best I can do is to acknowledge the difference in privelege - the privilege of getting a University Education.'
He laughed dismissively and asked 'And you think schooling in Nigeria is a privilege? What will you say about those schooling in American schools?'
Well like my Professor, I used to think that am not privileged. Infact being privileged is something I have admired from afar, a trophy which I felt rich kids have by virtue of their birth; having a nice car, foreign certificate and international passport choking with miles. But part of being privileged is denial of privilege. There's always an immediate discomfort that the idea of being privileged brings; a blend of guilt & defensiveness and ultimately denial.
Privilege blinds because it's the nature of privilege to blind. I am Black and Male -and while am happily both and will not exchange it for anything in the world - I belong to the 'privileged' in my immediate society. How do I see the female counterpart in my society?
If you're Male, you're privileged. If you have a fancy pants Degree(irrespective of your gender and place of school) , you're privileged. If you have a fat bank account, you're privileged. If you have a roof over your head, you're privileged...infact if you're reading this article you're privileged (at least you have a smartphone or computer and an internet connection). Kudos to you but it also means that sometimes you have to take off those glasses of privilege for you to see the Menace in your immediate society. You have to be a part of the Solution.
Privilege complicates Charity and an acknowledgement of this fact is powerful. Charity remains a Necessity. For those of us who give to charity, there's often the risk of feeling one is better than those that one has helped. We're able to do charity not because we're better than poor people who can't do charity themselves but because we're privileged. Always remember that for every single person that's privileged/rich, there are two persons who would have done better. There are people who are privileged in some Areas and are not privileged in another.
We all are privileged in different ways and we've to keep that in mind while doing our charity. One may ask 'where can I do charity?' and my response will always be 'listening to that inner voice in us and taking off those glasses of privilege'. And please not into the pockets of Pastors and Spiritual Leaders.
One last thing before I go, you also have to differentiate people who need genuine help and people who are just Leeches, Greedy and want to take advantage of your kindness. Those ones you can ignore.

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