HomeopinionSome Thoughts on Privilege Lists

I tend to be active in areas other than the learning differences/neurodiversity communities, like LGBTQ+, feminism, etc. Within each of them, I’ve come across these lengthy lists of ‘privileges’ that people who aren’t part of the groups enjoy.

Pretty font, but not very dyslexia friendly.
By Justin Watt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Those lists exist to point out how individuals who aren’t marginalized in specific ways by society unwittingly enjoy advantages that those who face these challenges don’t.

I’ll use a common experience dyslexics deal with. Street signs.

A list of privileges may just say, “Someone without dyslexia can read street signs, regardless of font used.”

This isn’t exactly a devastating example, but it can still cause huge problems. How does framing this issue in that context help, outside of providing guilt, or a sense of “so what”? Many of these tools tend not to go into further explanation, like I do below.

“Turn left on Bourbon” isn’t a problem, because they can read the sign in the example without a problem. A dyslexic individual, on the other hand, may end up seeing it as “Bonrbou”, because the “u” and “n” are basically the same letter, just turned upside down, or the little “b” turns into a “d”, or switches places with the “o” next to it, turning the name into “Bourdon” or “Bourobn”, or any other variation of the word. I’ve ended up in some pretty terrifying situations because of things like this happening to me.

Without context, being able to read street signs the first time around really doesn’t seem like an issue.

On the one hand, it’s interesting to see how we’re each affected by those things, but on the other, I really wonder just how much good these lists do. How do they help correct the problem?

I think one of the things that bothers me the most about them is that, they often function as little more than another way to guilt trip people about things they can’t help, instead of promoting greater acceptance and positive social change.

The reason I bring it up in this blog is that I’ve seen a few, though not many, of them geared towards the LD community. Yes, people without the various neurodiversities we deal with have distinct advantages that we may not have. In fact, a lot of the privileges listed on other groups’ lists can apply to us, as well.

Those lists tend to polarize groups more than anything. The ones I’ve seen, at least, seem like passive aggressive attacks on everyone else, rather than an attempt to mold society into being more accepting of those outside the status quo.

Generally, I bite my tongue and pass them by without comment, because they’re only one tool used in the ongoing effort to make the world a more accepting place. Maybe they help some folks understand what others go through on a daily basis, or they serve as a venting tool for frustration.

I just think that telling stories of our lives, sharing coping techniques, enjoying the gifts our various neurologies offer us and taking an active role in the world around us are all better ways to change cultural norms.

To each their own, I suppose, and maybe one day I’ll change my mind about them. Who knows? In any case, thanks for sticking with the ramble this far.

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