A Guide to Privilege And Its Different Forms

There are very few people in the world who do not have any form of privilege. Sometimes it may not feel like you have privilege or power/advantages, but whether or not you feel it, you benefit from it while others don’t. So, it is important to recognize the privilege you have, and to help here is a guide to the different types of privilege someone may possess.

Note: Privilege is intersectional (its different forms don’t exist independently of one another, but overlap to shape one’s identity). It operates on an institutional level. For example, just because a person says they have struggled personally does not mean that their privilege doesn’t exist.

Racial Privilege

White people receive a head start or advantage in life just for being white. The majority of U.S. culture and opportunities were made for white people. This ranges from something as subtle as hair care aisles generally being for straighter hair while curly hair products are limited and labeled “ethnic” to more severe issues, such as it being unlikely for white people to be racially profiled/incarcerated. Some POCs may still benefit from white privilege because they are white-passing (have features that are often associated with those of white people)

Class Privilege

The different classes are arranged in a ladder with the upper class at the top, then the middle class, working class, and the poor at the bottom. Upper class people do not have to worry about sticking to a budget or not being able to pay for their children’s college tuition. They also get to build wealth so that their future generations do not have to work as hard to make money. Class privilege often prevents people access to things such as healthcare, a healthy diet, a home(s), etc. The upper class have money for their “wants,” like vacations and expensive clothes, in addition to needs.

Educational Privilege

Some people are not able to obtain a higher education because of the high cost or other circumstances. 1.2 million U.S. high school students drop out every year. There are also differences in quality of education between schools. Expensive, private schools often have more opportunities for students and have higher graduation rates. Today it has become harder to get a job without having at least a college degree, leaving many people unemployed. It is almost impossible to get a stable job without a high school diploma.

Gender Privilege

Cis-gender (person who identifies with the gender assigned at their birth) men receive more power compared to other genders. Cisgender women are more likely to experience experience sexual harassment, domestic violence, and less pay. People who don’t identify within the gender binary (either woman or man), such as transgender, intersex, and gender neutral, often face even more discrimination and violence.

Sexuality Privilege

Many people assume that everyone is heterosexual (and not asexual) causing queer people to feel pressured to come out about their sexuality. Not going through the emotional/mental toll of coming out is one privilege of being heterosexual. There are a number of people who believe that LGBTQ+ relationships are wrong or “sinful.” Same-sex marriage was banned in the U.S. until 2015 and is still banned in many other countries. Queer people are more likely to encounter violence and hate crimes. They may also have a harder time adopting children due to workers’ fears that they will not create a “normal, healthy” home.

Ability Privilege

Able-bodied (not physically disabled; can see, hear, walk, and function without great difficulty) people without mental disabilities automatically receive basic needs, unlike disabled people. Disabled people often have to constantly advocate for themselves because they have a lack of affordable healthcare access, job opportunities, and day-to-day support. Able-bodied people don’t have to worry about not being able to enter a stairs-only building, not having braille or sign language used during a class in school, etc.