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Syracuse University Libraries

FYS 101: Privilege

This guide is designed to support new students to SU.

Terminology

Privilege refers to unearned social power accorded by the formal and informal institutions of society to ALL members of a dominant group (e.g. white privilege, male privilege, etc.). Privilege is usually invisible to those who have it because we’re taught not to see it, but nevertheless it puts them at an advantage over those who do not have it (Colours of Resistance Archive)

White Supremacy is the idea (ideology) that white people and the ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions of white people are superior to People of Color and their ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions. While most people associate white supremacy with extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazis, white supremacy is ever present in our institutional and cultural assumptions that assign value, morality, goodness, and humanity to the white group while casting people and communities of color as worthless (worth less), immoral, bad, and inhuman and “undeserving (Racial Equity Tools). 

White Advantage in the United States is the lived experience of greater social/political access, representation and entitlement, and material and economic security that people considered white have as a result of white supremacy. It's important to note that while many white people are oppressed on the basis of class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, culture, ethnicity, etc, it is still true that ALL white people benefit from white advantage in various ways. Generally, white people who experience such advantage do so without being conscious of it (Dr. Robin Di Angelo and Peggy McIntosh). 

Privilege Resources: Books

Privilege Resources: Articles

Privilege Resources: Podcasts

Some Types of Privilege

What are some types of privilege, and how can we combat privilege blindness? Religion, ability, gender identity, race, class, sexuality, gender, education. Privilege is the benefits and advantages held by a group in power, or in a majority, that arise because of the oppression and suppression of minority groups. Furthermore, privilege is, by the social justice definition, the advantages people have that they don't often think about because they never have to experience the oppressive side. Understanding it requires an active effort to see things from the perspective of other, underprivileged people. While you cannot get rid of your privilege, you can acknowledge it. When we force privilege into view and discuss it openly we engage in solidarity with those who do not share in certain privileges with us. Don't be afraid to make a statement, write a letter, post a blog, get into a discussion, or create dialogue and criticism in some way to comment on instances of privilege. These are just a few types of privilege. Can you think of others?

Source: Cate Harpool 

OF NOTE: While this image makes use of the term “privilege blindness,” I would like to point out that this is an instance of ableism being used. The use of blindness in this case comes with the implication of the inability to do the right thing. Using an actual disability state to describe a negative situation is implying that a disability is a negative experience. This allows stigma to remain and fester, ultimately ensuring that people with disabilities, specifically the blind community, are looked down upon. 

Privilege Resources: Videos

Privilege Resources: Websites

Privilege Resources: Films