Here’s an excellent video from Buzzfeed (really? I know!) that illustrates the concept of privilege in a compelling way. It helps you understand that privilege is not a static thing but a relative thing because there are so many different types of privilege and so many ways that an individual can have their lives made more difficult.
And no, this does not mean anyone should feel ashamed of being privileged or have to apologize for it. I have pretty much every privilege imaginable. I am a straight white male from a middle class family, I’m educated and have never had to worry where my next meal was coming from. I have a couple of chronic health conditions, but they are manageable and don’t impede my ability to function or make a living. About the only attribute I have that might cause me problems is that I’m an atheist, but that’s really never been a problem for me either. I’ve never lost a friend or family member because of it, I’ve never suffered for being open about my rejection of religion. In fact, I make my living because of it now.
I don’t feel ashamed or guilty for any of that. I had little to do with it. But I do feel an ethical responsibility to recognize that I’m privileged and that other people’s lives are made much more difficult because they weren’t as lucky as I was. And with that recognition comes an obligation to help make life more fair, more equal and more just for those who aren’t as privileged in any way I can. That’s really all it means.