How to use your privilege for good

Columnist: Bayley Baker is a senior at Washburn University studying mass media and political science. She enjoys reading, writing and watching makeup tutorials on YouTube. The goal of this column is to mobilize and inspire Washburn students by educating them on politics.

I’m a white, able-bodied, straight, cisgender, middle-class American woman. I have privilege, and I know this. I also know that privilege is power, and if used properly, I can turn my privilege into a tool for empowering and uplifting the voices of those who have less privilege.

I know that I can never, ever understand the lived experiences of those who are less privileged. I can never fully put myself in the shoes of a woman of color, or relate to a queer student who’s struggling. I’m not going to pretend like I understand, because I have NO idea what it’s like to be them. But I want to do ​something​, so I’m learning how to put my privilege to good use.

The first step in using your privilege for good is to acknowledge and recognize the reality of your privilege. Listen to what people of color, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community are telling you about their lived experiences, and internalize that knowledge. Think long and hard about how your privilege has benefited you and made your life easier in ways that other people have not experienced.

It can be uncomfortable to face these facts. It can make you feel guilty. But don’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself - take action! Speak out against racism and other discriminatory language when you see it, whether it’s on social media or at the family dinner table. Be an ally in both public and private settings.

Make an effort to educate others who share the same privilege. Articulate why it matters to be aware of your privilege, and encourage the people in your life to do their research and develop an understanding of the institutional discrimination that others face.

I want to make it clear that I am not the authority on using your privilege for good. The best people to ask about allyship are the people in your life who are part of those marginalized groups and experience discrimination as a result of a lack of privilege. I encourage you to respectfully strike up a conversation about the matter with those individuals, but do so with the understanding that it’s not their job to educate you.

For those of us who benefit from the privilege we have, inaction is unacceptable. Let’s educate ourselves and use our privilege for good.

Edited by Adam White, Jason Morrison, Jessica Galvin

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