I must admit I am guilty of not recognizing my own privilege.
I also must admit that sometimes I use my privilege to my advantage.
I like to think of myself as an open-minded person. Not one to judge people based on their looks, clothes, skin color, family, education, etc. And up until I started working at a restaurant, I would say that was pretty true.
Then everything changed.
At my workplace, it is commonplace to have people ask not to be sat certain tables or even pay someone off so they do not get a certain party or type of people. One time I had someone pay me $20 so I wouldn’t seat them with a specific table. At first, this really bothered me.
And it still should.
But being surrounded by something for so long, you get used to it. I started to realize these comments no longer bothered me as much, and I eventually got to a point where they wouldn’t bother me at all. Sometimes, as much as I hate to admit it, I would find myself thinking things about people because of their appearance. It had become so engrained in me as part of a job that this happened, and I am upset that I allowed myself to get to that point. While I had never been vocal about my thoughts, as so many others had, they were still there. Until I joined WILL, I never realized that my actions were causing privilege, and that the actions stemmed from my privilege.
This group has opened my eyes to the actions that occur in everyday life due to privilege. And these actions are not just racially based. People can have privilege for many things. Women lack privilege because they are women. Some people who are disabled lack privilege because they are not able-bodied, and some immigrants lack privilege in this country because they cannot speak the language or do not know the cultural customs. Many people lack privilege in one way or another. As a female, I lack privilege. Knowing this, I am upset that I let myself discriminate against others because of their lack of privilege.
This group has held me accountable. They have given me so much information and they are always there to catch me when I fall but to also let me know that I was wrong. This group has made me grow in ways that I never thought possible and in things that I never realized I could grow in. WILL has taught me about privilege, leadership, feminism, and friendship, and I am so happy I have shared this life-changing experience with these beautiful people.
So thank you WILL and all the lovely people involved for changing me.
Stephanie Sollanek is a junior majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Criminal Justice. She is in her first year in WILL.