A conversation today got me thinking about my privilege. It is no surprise that as a white, hetero-passing, young(ish), male who is of average attractiveness I am treated differently than someone with different traits. Our success in life is not solely a result of our hard work, the way we are treated by others based on nothing but appearance can change the outcomes of our lives. Generally, in my life, it is very minor things, but one area where my privilege was obvious was my first bike tour.
In the summer of 2012 I rode my bike from Washington DC to Los Angeles. I was alone for most of those two months. During that 3,500 mile ride I was never afraid that a stranger was going to hurt me, rob me, or rape me. When I rode my bike down the center of rural towns that had Confederate flags in the windows I wasn’t worried that I wouldn’t make it out alive. When I walked into grocery stores I wasn’t afraid that I’d be kicked out. When I needed help or shelter I was reasonably sure that the random farmer, car driving by, or firefighter would say yes. There are a lot of opportunities that I have in my life simply because of where, when, and to whom I was born.
Wherever I go I am generally treated with respect. I don’t think I deserve less respect. Rather, I think everyone should be treated equally and with respect. There are enough things about life and nature that are hard and prohibit us from doing things we might want to do, we shouldn’t put up other social barriers against others. I wish everyone could follow the path I did and could save a little money and bike across the US if they wanted to without fear of harm, but that simply isn’t the case. Depending on your race, gender, or sexual orientation you could become a victim easily.
To be honest, I don’t know what to do about it. I can recognize (to an extent) my own privilege, and alter my own behavior to make sure I am not hindering the opportunities of others or treating others unfairly, and I can keep looking for other privileges I have not noticed before. But, I have no idea what to do next. I have no idea how to effect change.