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  • Writer's pictureCarrick Ryan

Recognising privilege is not surrendering it...

So I'm going to raise a subject that may seem odd for me to raise - privilege.

If your first reaction is to roll your eyes, I get it. This term is often misused and overused and used to silence reasonable debate, but I want to have a stab at dispelling a myth around privilege.

Firstly, if someone points out how you have been privileged they are not saying you have had it easy. In fact often they are pointing out the opposite.

Life is tough, and those that succeed more often than not do so thanks to a mixture of hardwork and natural ability. There are a litany of factors that open doors for someone, but if it was easy then there would still be plenty able to walk through those doors.

As an example, let's look at someone who is a successful Barrister.

To be a Barrister requires years of intense studying, a natural intelligence well above average, and a work ethic that demands long hours of work for decades.

Now it certainly helps if your parents were able to send you to a good school, could support you through your studies, maybe they were also lawyers themselves, but the fact is even if all those factors existed for me, I probably wouldn't have the intelligence or commitment to become a Barrister.

In fact a Barrister will rightfully point out the fact that they worked incredibly hard to achieve every milestone they did achieve. The long hours that nearly broke them, the time spent as a junior solicitor doing poorly paid work, and the perpetual exhaustion of repeated mental testing.

They might argue that they pushed their mind and their body to its absolute limit to achieve what they did - and they would probably be right.

They should be proud and enjoy the spoils of their hard work. Our society should not resist rewarding such an achievement.

But recognising privilege is not asking this person to surrender any of their rewards for their hard work, it is simply acknowledging that their achievement was so great and so gruelling, that if only one or two restraints were placed on them during their development then their advancement may not have been possible.

Imagine if their parents couldn't speak English or couldn't afford to support them through University, imagine if they had a disability that made studying more difficult, imagine if your race, sex, or sexuality made those first few years of your career more difficult to navigate and advance.

Acknowledging your privilege is not suggesting your path to where you are was easy, it is recognising it was so hard that without privilege it might have been impossible.

This doesn't then mean you have to surrender anything, but affords us the ability to recognise and remove barriers so that everyone in the next generation has the opportunity to succeed.

Life is tough for all of us, but for some it's even tougher. Shining a light on why this is is an important step to creating a fairer and more equal society that benefits us all.

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