Humanity is evolving. The world is getting better. There’s infinite possibility for what we can achieve as a species and a global society. We are on the brink of profound transformation.
I believe all of these messages are true. More importantly, I believe that believing them makes us more likely to drive change and create a better world. Change is more likely when we believe it’s possible. Change fades when we give in to stories of “nothing ever changes” or “the world is going to shit.”
And yet, I can’t help but see the privilege inherent in such a view. I am afforded a positive, optimistic view of humanity’s trajectory at least in part because I am safe, healthy, empowered, and perceived as of value by our society. I am able to be positive because I am not personally marginalized and oppressed by society at large. As a straight, white, American, able-bodied, upper-middle class, reasonably intelligent, educated male free of chronic depression, I am better positioned to succeed and believe the world is OK and getting better than nearly all humans.
If I were to truly understand and feel the depth of pain, suffering, and injustice in the world, would I really hold such optimism? Could I still hold such a view if I had to live a life of constant struggle and oppression? Am I possibly just out of touch with the realities of the world?
Some more skeptical and disillusioned than I have asked me this.
The truth is: I’m not sure. And I don’t think it matters.
Everything I do and say is informed by my privilege. It colors how I see and perceive the world. It’s a part of me. Certainly, this privilege blinds me to many realities about the world. And it’s fair to question whether what I see is real or just a reflection of my privilege.
But there is nothing to be gained by being ashamed of my privilege. There is nothing to be gained by denying or avoiding the power it gives me.
The only thing of value that can be done with privilege is to leverage its power into something useful, something that can help rectify the pain and suffering all around us.
I work to leverage my privilege into optimism and a sense of possibility for a better world. I believe that offers something of value that I may have unique, privileged access to given my position in the world.
What can your privilege offer the world?