As we seek to create a more diverse and inclusive work environment, we have learned in a previous Inclusivity Minute to consider the role of ‘in-group bias’. A related and important concept is that of privilege. Privilege is defined as a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group. Privilege affects who has access to career paths in science, the opportunities available when pursuing those paths, and interpersonal interactions at school and at work.
Privilege can apply to any specific individual or group. For example, white privilege allows people of fair skin to escape being stereotyped or harassed because of the color of their skin. Socio-economic privilege can provide a debt-free college education, or the opportunity to build generational wealth. A society free of oppression is one where all individuals experience equal privilege.
Acknowledging one’s own privilege and making efforts to better understand the circumstances of those without it encourages an equitable work environment and society. Such an environment will help us to best achieve our collective scientific goals.
To learn more:
- In the popular media, we suggest the Elite Daily article, 5 Types of Privilege You Probably Have No Idea You're Benefiting From and from the New Yorker The Origins of Privilege.
- For historical context, you can see W.E.B. Du Bois’ 1935 seminal work describing the concept of psychological wage (large pdf, see p.700).
- The University of Southern California offers a guided exercise on privilege. Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, also has a toolkit for educators that includes useful resources.