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Talking About Privilege: A Beginner’s Guide

Posted by Sagarika Ravishankar


The holidays are a time to come together—to spend time with family and give from your heart, to truly connect with your community and look out for the people around you. It’s the time of year when we think outside of ourselves and strive to make our friends and families happy. This year, in an effort to further connect to and aid our community, we’d like to encourage you to go a step further.

The children that we seek to serve often enter the public education system at a disadvantage—their starting lines set significantly behind their more privileged peers. Privilege, in this instance, doesn’t just span financial standing (which is the classical understanding of the word). Privilege is a set of benefits that are given to people within a specific social group, just by nature of who they outwardly appear to be. This spans gender, race, class, and disability—both mental and physical—and has real-world consequences.

Having privilege doesn’t mean that an individual is immune to life’s hardships, but it does mean having an unearned advantage or benefit in society by nature of their identity. It has nothing to do with being good or bad—it’s ingrained in a larger system of beliefs and practices that are mere fact. Luckily, it’s a fact that we collectively have the power to change.

In following our Values and Behaviors, Social Venture Partners address root causes and ecosystems and we advance equity, diversity, and inclusion. We pursue the greatest potential instead of the easiest path, and we confront the realities of privilege and inequity where we can. So, this holiday season, we encourage you to not only understand and address your own privilege, but to bring the conversation home with you. We’ve even come up with a handy list of resources to get you started on broaching the topic.

First, understand what privilege means.

Second, measure your own privilege! Until you understand the circumstances that create privilege and how you, yourself are affected, it will be difficult to take the necessary steps to learn and understand systems of oppression. If you’d like to share your results with the Partnership, we’d love to hear from you in the comments—especially your theme song.

Third, learn how privilege works. You’ve got a couple of options:

  • This article is an excellent read that describes the components that go into shaping prejudice and privilege.
  • This article explains what having white privilege really means.
  • Here’s another article that discusses the ‘web of control’ that stems from privilege and oppression, and affects marginalized communities from early childhood through adulthood.  
  • This video is a more quickly digestible option, and highly illustrative.

Finally, take a look at this starter’s guide to having tough conversations about race. There’s also an excellent article by Teaching Tolerance that covers teaching strategies for ‘disturbing the comfortable’.

Privilege affects all of us, whether we have it or not. It’s a difficult conversation to have because it’s an uncomfortable mirror to look in, no matter where you stand. Regardless, it’s important to talk about.


Questions? Comments? Feel free to let us know what you think in the comments below! 

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