I bought a new camera earlier this year. The body of the camera fits my hand so that I can hold it and click the shutter with one hand: my right hand. When I ordered the camera, I did not specify that I am right-handed nor did I seek out a right-handed camera. It never even occurred to me that the camera I ordered would not be easy to handle and use.
I am the beneficiary of right-hand privilege. I didn’t see it when shopping for my camera. I didn’t even think about it because as one of the 70% to 90% of human beings who are right-handed, I can take for granted that my handedness is considered. My value as a right-handed American has never been questioned. As a child, no one tried to change me and make me left-handed.
My right-handed privilege allows me to assume that services and products are designed for me. The intrinsic message is simple: right-handed people are the right kind of people. Left-handed people are, well, not quite right.
Privilege identifies a particular set of characteristics in human beings and systematically (and often invisibly) favors people with those characteristics.
As a person who was born with and into a family with many of the characteristics of the unspoken ideal (e.g.; male, light skin, hetero, American of pre-Revolution British descent, currently-able, thin, Christian, etc.), my identity has been affirmed by images and culture throughout my five-plus decades on this planet.
Confronting personal bigotry is about identifying in ourselves our own biases toward others and choosing to act differently. Confronting our privilege is about accepting that though we did not choose it, we benefit from having any of the unspoken, “right” characteristics.
Confronting our privilege is listening to our kindred who do not possess as many of the characteristics as we possess. It is to believe the stories of our human kindred who suffer the flip side of our privilege. When we earnestly confront our privilege, we will taste the pain of our earthly peers. To confront our privilege is not easy but it is the loving thing to do.
For those of us who claim to follow the teachings of Jesus, to listen, believe, and work for systemic change is to give our faith healing arms and legs. When we confront our privilege, we journey with Jesus to the margins of our society.