What do you Take for Granted?

Privilege has become kind of a controversial term. Some people use it to defend themselves. Others see it as an attack. Some are merely trying to inform. Others see it as a lie. It’s a hard term to listen to. You hear you’re privileged, and you think of every way in which you’re not.

So, instead of labeling you with that term, I want to ask you a question. What do you take for granted?

Personally, I take a lot of things for granted.

  • I’m short, so I take for granted I can walk through doorways without banging my head.
  • I’m small, so I take for granted I can fit in bathtubs.
  • I’m not threatening, so I take for granted I can walk up to anyone I like and strike up a conversation.
  • I speak English, so in the US I take for granted I’ll be able to understand the language around me anywhere I go.
  • I’m cisgender, so I take for granted I can use any bathroom labeled “women’s” without a problem.

Most of those were pretty mild, inane things you might think–unless you’re someone who has to remember to duck every time they go through a doorway so they don’t get a concussion. I didn’t realize I took it for granted until I made a friend who had to duck through every doorway he came across.

I also don’t take some things for granted. Actually, I can’t. I’m reminded every time I try these things. The safe assumptions from above don’t apply. And they can be the same things in different situations.

  • I’m short, so I can’t assume I can reach things on the top shelves in grocery stores.
  • I’m not intimidating, so I can’t assume when I speak, my words will be heard.
  • I’m bisexual, so I can’t assume I can make comments about appreciating women without meeting hostility.
  • I’m a woman, so I can’t assume I can go out alone and be safe.

I propose to you that when someone calls you “privileged,” what they’re really doing is asking you to pay attention to something you take for granted. Because I can rewrite all of these sentences using that hated term, and it doesn’t change their meaning at all:

  • I’m privileged to be short, so I take for granted I can walk through doorways without banging my head.
  • I’m privileged to be small, so I take for granted I can fit in bathtubs.
  • I’m privileged to not be threatening, so I take for granted I can walk up to anyone I like and strike up a conversation.
  • I’m privileged to speak English, so in the US I take for granted I’ll be able to understand the language around me anywhere I go.
  • I’m privileged to be cisgender, so I take for granted I can use any bathroom labeled “women’s” without a problem.

I propose to you that when someone is asking you to “check your privilege,” they’re trying to point out that they can’t take some things for granted, something that you do, and they’re asking you to notice, to acknowledge it:

  • I’m not privileged to be tall, so I can’t assume I can reach things on the top shelves in grocery stores.
  • I’m not privileged to be intimidating, so I can’t assume when I speak, my words will be heard.
  • I’m not privileged to be straight, so I can’t assume I can make comments about appreciating women without meeting hostility.
  • I’m not privileged to be a man, so I can’t assume I can go out alone and be safe.

I saved the most controversial for last: what I take for granted because I’m white. It’s a long list. These are some of the more petty ones that are just as true, but maybe not so hurtful to listen to.

  • I’m white, so I take for granted most people around me are, too.
  • I’m white, so I take for granted most role models around me are, too.
  • I’m white, so I take for granted I can find doctors, hairdressers, and cosmetics that know how my body works.
  • I’m white, so I take for granted “flesh” color is the color of my flesh (or near enough).
  • I’m white, so I take for granted I can create a video game character that resembles me.
  • I’m white, so I take for granted people compliment my unusual name instead of complaining about it.

Every one of these, once again, could be rewritten to say, “I’m privileged to be white,” and the meaning of the sentence not change at all. Calling myself privileged is just the word that’s been chosen. It means taking things for granted. Needing to check your privilege means you’re blind to what you take for granted.

Not a single thing on this list is a crime. Not a single thing is something I need to apologize for or feel guilty about. Not my privileges nor my disadvantages. Having privilege doesn’t make me a bad person. Everyone is privileged in some ways, and everyone has disadvantages.

However, there’s a world of difference between being unaware of what I take for granted, and refusing to admit that I take anything for granted at all. It’s an honest mistake if I use a term I thought was descriptive that turns out to be racist. It’s racist if I continue to use it after someone makes me aware. It’s an honest mistake if I use the wrong pronoun to describe a trans* person. It’s bigoted if I continue to use the wrong pronoun after being corrected. Honest mistakes are a product of my privilege, but not acknowledging it makes me an asshole.

I don’t need to apologize for being ignorant. But once I’m not ignorant anymore, I have a responsibility to not be an asshole.

Next time you’re asked to “check your privilege,” before you say something angry back, before you turn off the internet and walk away, take a moment and ask yourself, “What am I taking for granted right now?”

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One thought on “What do you Take for Granted?

  1. Me says:

    Interesting post; really made me think.

    Liked by 1 person

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