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I Some days ago, I was watching a YouTube video about privilege. The video idea was to get some people together for a supposed run or walk. There are several versions, and many don't even have a real race at the end of the activity. Search for the words privilege and race on Youtube, and a lot of examples will pop up.

I confess that after the videos, I was more confused than not. I feel privileged for several reasons, but I just didn't see it in the video. Thinking about it, I came to realize that I even disagree with some ideas and find others a little bit dangerous.

Man with open arms at the top of a rock

Understanding the activity

The person who organizes the process brings together a considerable number of people from different cultures, races, and life histories. The goal is to hold a kind of run or walk. In some cases, they promise a cash prize by the end.

But before the race is necessary to answer some questions. If your answer to the question indicates a privilege, you move up towards the winning mark, and if not, you move down.

The activity seems to want to show that some people have many advantages in the game of life over others and make those in front aware of it. A more popular video explicitly states that its function is to help people understand the effects of social privileges.

The movie weighs on the emotional side. Some versions even make participants to cry, whether the most privileged or the least.

Defining privilege

I want to explore the definition of privilege. If we look in the dictionary, we have:

  • An advantage that only one person or group of people has, usually because of their position or because they are rich.
  • The way in which rich people or people from a high social class have most of the advantages in society.
  • The special right that some people in authority have that allows them to do or say things that other people are not allowed to.

We see an indication of why a race is used by videos to address the concept of privilege. Being privileged seems to put you in front of other people in a specific situation. The video also show participants thoughts, and an answer caught my attention. The participant defined as:

Privilege is something people have, even if they don't deserve it, because they didn't work for it.

Where does the privilege get you?

Men running

The finish line is tough to define. We have people who are depressed and unhappy in whatever situation we may define as success. One has a lot of money, is a reference in one career in many fields, is famous, is hugely desired for his appearance and so on. What are the privileges that one must succeed in each specific field?

I find it too hard to find and refuse to simplify that privileges are just for accessing financial resources. The world is extraordinarily complex, and we create theories all the time to try to find an explanation.

The problem with some theories is that they seem real only because many people, or the right people, believe in it. They may not represent reality at all. That is why we have some famous and respected ones that state entirely different things.

And in the case of the video, we know that fate can be cruel to a lot of people. Every day we see people judged by their race, color, sexual behavior, religion, etc. Whenever we see any intention of correcting these problems, we want to believe that it is correct firmly.

Whether you believe you can or can't, you'll be right

The above sentence resembles a quote attributed to Henry Ford over the internet. It may sound like a self-help book phrase, but it isn't. The Placebo and Nocebo effects are a fact and treated by medicine, for example, with due care.

We usually use them in the most physical sense. When we are sick and taking a medicine that should not have any effect, but which we get cured by believing, is the placebo effect. Nocebo is a negative effect. Thinking that something is not good, makes it real.

But both effects also have a psychological impact. You find that something may or may not be directly tied to your ability to succeed. I add another effect, called the Pygmalion or Rosenthal, then.

Simply put, the effect is when a teacher's expectations about their students greatly influence student performance. With rats, the same results can be seen. Telling an observer that a group of random mice will perform better when escaping a maze makes the mice perform better.

All these effects make me worryingly see how some initiatives try to educate people about privileges. Prove to some people that they are in worse situations and that others are better off, without being careful, ends up increasing the distance between them.

Be careful if you are left behind

Let's say you take part in a similar activity or got in the situation watching the video and were in the last positions before the race started. You may suffer from your skin color, home address, financial status, family violence, family absence, physical disability, weight, height, country of origin, religion, shyness, physical appearance, etc.

Regardless of which group examples you may fit into, chances are your group suffers from higher risk rates to suffer from some problems. However, even your group, whatever it may be, also has people who belong to a top that will be said to be successful.

And someone reading this or watching the video is probably not the underprivileged treated there. Think about someone who pushes the statistics down. This person is in such a vulnerable situation that they have a minuscule probability of watching the video I watched.

That's why I'm thinking about it. Would you take someone very likely to influence his destiny and make it believe that this person is disadvantaged because of a difficulty? Would that not be dangerous?

Thus, I believe that government policies should work to reduce problems more and more in the best way possible for each case. And in my ignorance, I cannot say which is the best way in either case since I never dedicated myself to study social policies.

Só que na análise individual, eu também acho que cada um deve olhar para as pessoas do seu grupo que estão lá no topo. As pessoas que estão lá, com But in individual analysis, I also think that everyone should look at the people in their group who are at the top. People at the top, with some effort, luck, and persistence, have reached there for a mix of those reasons. One should not focus on just one of them.

I believe it is up to each of us to strive persistently and expect luck to come. Perhaps we will reach the point where we can not only get there but bring many more people with us.

I'm sorry if you are in the first place.

Now let's imagine that you are first in the activity. You are so far ahead that if you take one more step, you win the race. You are a white man, very handsome, born in one of the wealthiest countries on the planet, have no physical disabilities, and your family has more money than I can imagine.

If you have any awareness of your situation, I am very sorry for you. Unfortunately, you will hardly be entitled to suffer for anything. None of your doubts or anxieties can be justified. Nowadays, even before anyone knows you, it's easy to point the finger at you and judge you as the source of all problems.

If your family makes money suspiciously, it's way worse, and it doesn't matter who you are. Your individuality will never be big enough to erase your last name.

You have no right to suffering as a teenager, to miss hard-working parents, to suffer from bullying at school, to struggle because that girl doesn't like you, to feel incapable, to think that you will never do anything more significant than your family did.

I'm so sorry you're born in a world where you can't deserve all the privileges you've had. Anything you do is never enough. Even if just enduring the sufferings of life without complaining - that's what everyone expects - may be unbearable to you.

Maybe you just must live the character. Enjoy life and not care about anyone else. After all, this is how they define the privileged. Anyway, your privilege strikes me like a curse. And for that, I'm so sorry.

My starting point

child looking to the first step of long stairs

Watching the video and writing this article, I couldn't help but think about my situation. Having a very brief analysis of my childhood, we have points that can throw me statistically in the privileged group or not.

I am male, white, tall, straight, middle class, healthy. I can say that my family did not follow any minority religion. I had access to a good university at no cost at all. I had access to an internet computer since I was ten years old, married parents, etc.

On the negative side, we can assess that I was born of six months of pregnancy, lost my mother at 11, and my father did not reach half of elementary school. My education was always public (this is not good in Brazil before you get to the University), I grew up in a third world country, in a suburb neighborhood from my city, etc.

Depending on your starting point, you may think I'm incredibly privileged or the other way around. You can even evaluate changing items from positive to negative and vice versa. I would quickly switch some things myself, without problems.

For example, being born six months at the time I was born maybe statistically a problem, but I grew up hearing that I was a survivor. What on a large scale seems like a problem to me was a plus. I felt I was stronger because of it.

Maybe I am the most privileged man in the world

Evaluating my starting point, I have come to the personal conclusion that I must be one of the most privileged people in the world. I have privileges that make me believe that anything is possible. Being a man, straight and white, no one will close a door for me.

I also didn't hear anyone say that being a Northeastern child, being Brazilian, or living where I lived would make anyone treat me with prejudice. I only realized that this was possible after adulthood.

On the other hand, I had enough adversity in my life that I could thrive in trouble. Not only being able to cope with these situations but being fully prepared to admit when it was difficult, ask for help, and have someone to give me a hand. Few would look at my situation and think I would be suffering for no reason.

I had the benefit of being privileged enough to know that no one would misjudge me for my color or gender, not knowing when they would, and they would say little that I had no right to suffering and would deny me help. Being right in the middle perhaps gave me the possibility of being what I wanted to be.

I can't see more privileges than these. I repeat I could be who I wanted to be. Get where I could imagine. Perhaps I should recognize, be grateful, and live so that I do justice to this privilege.

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Bruno Barros