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Students sitting at large desks in classroom
Photo by Christine Cousins
Feature

On Privilege: Building Community Through Classroom Conversations

Mandi Hardy

The idea of privilege is further complicated by intersectionality, different aspects of our identities working together to create a lived experience. Because of intersectionality, one person may experience privilege and advantages based on one aspect of their identity while facing barriers because of another aspect of their identity, or they might face compounded barriers because of multiple aspects of their identity intersecting. For example, a black man who is gay may experience more homophobia (from outside the queer community) as well as racism (from within the queer community) than someone who is white. This is not universally true, which is often one of the struggles when talking about privilege. We can always find an example to counter every argument.

My goal here, and in my classroom, is to listen to and hear the stories of struggles and barriers rather than think of examples to prove them wrong. It’s easy to feel as though we are being blamed if we experience privilege. We are not. We are being asked to hear a truth. Here is another example: A friend who uses a wheelchair doesn’t have a lot of money and lives in an apartment in Toronto. When the elevator in his building broke down, he was trapped in his apartment for several days until it was repaired. Contrast this with another family I know, with significantly more wealth. They have renovated their home so that the father of the family, who uses a wheelchair, has easy access to the entire house and its amenities. Class makes a big difference to how the challenges of living in an ableist society impact these two wheelchair users. Put differently, one family’s experience of class privilege made a difficult situation easier. Both families experienced a hardship; however, one family was able to use their privilege to lift some of the barriers.

Why Is It Important To Talk About This With Our Students ?

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