Privilege and Perspective

It warrants repeating that traveling, even within your own community, is vital to developing a more caring an empathetic mindset. It allows you to appreciate what you have, how little you know, and how much good there is in the world.

As I wait to board my flight to Vienna, Austria (country #2 on my Eastern European trip, I want to focus on my own privilege as an American citizen. How fortunate I am to be able to travel across the world and still have my language spoken, and be able to read signs, order food, and even hear my language on the radio. I also see familiar companies and brands that give me some odd sense of being comfortable and at ease. It was cool to see the Securitas company handle in security at the Berlin airport. They wore the same badges my security guards did at Louisville Hall when I was a Resident Director. Despite this privilege, traveling amongst others and in places that are unfamiliar is still challenging. That is the thing about privilege – while unearned and advantageous, it doesn’t mean life is always “easy.”

Having stated that, I think about conversations about privilege I have with my colleagues, students, family, and strangers. I am usually met with the futility of the guilt that comes with these discussions, and the lack of an ability to see the both / and dynamic of privilege. I can only examine my own practices and hopefully reflect how to best use my privilege in constructive ways. At the very minimum I don’t want to abuse my privilege. This means while I’m abroad I work hard to try to learn and speak the native language. I try to be conscious of what I wear or have, knowing that I may or may not have income advantages that others do not. I try to listen, and learn, and frequent local establishments, and most importantly share what I’ve heard and seen so that people in my circle can appreciate the humanity of others.

If only we could do more of this at our local synagogues and mosques, government debates, cookouts and BBQs, or with the people with whom we have little in common. If only. Take time to a) do some work on what privilege is, b) think about the privilege(s) you have, and c) make a commitment to not abuse that privilege, and even better, to share it to uplift others.

Dr. Anthony

Published by Dr. Michael D. Anthony

I currently serve as the Vice President of Student Affairs and Institutional Effectiveness at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, IL. I served as an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Louisville and Loyola University in Chicago, IL. In order to expand my life's work beyond my day-to-day job, I started my own consulting work in leadership and diversity in 2008. I completed my Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership and Organizational Development at the University of Louisville, where I also earned my Master of Arts degree in Higher Education Administration. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management with a concentration in Marketing from North Carolina State University. A native of Charlotte, NC I am passionate about leadership development, organizational change, and the ability of effective leaders to transform their communities. During my professional career I have made it my personal goal to be a strong and vocal advocate for students, faculty, and staff, and have a life-long vision to empower others to affect positive change in their community. I live in Rochester, MN.

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