Disrupting Privilege

This article was first published on LinkedIn by our Founder, Roianne Nedd.  We would love to hear your views on privilege and its impact on equality, diversity and inclusion in organisations.

“I live in a world where privilege surrounds me.  Whether it is my own privilege as a straight woman or the privilege that I witness from White people and men, if you understand the concept then the concept of privilege is inescapable.  Here is a short video that I found on Facebook that illustrates what privilege is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4K5fbQ1-zps

Recently, I was asked if I have any tips about how to disrupt privilege and I thought I would share five key points:

  1. Recognise your privilege
  2. Acknowledge how people without your privilege are treated
  3. Mindfully manage your privilege
  4. Speak out against privilege
  5. Educate those who share your privilege about what it is and how to disrupt it

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I am aware that I have privilege as a straight person.  This privilege is clear from my default setting of heterosexual descriptors for family for instance.  When I think of the word family, I think of a mum and dad.  After that initial split-second, other family compositions come to mind, but that initial thought is grounded in my straight privilege.

If you consider your own behaviour and the way you see the world, your privilege will become clear.  There are also some key phrases that warn you of your privilege.  Phrases such as “I’m not racist, am I?”  If you have to ask, then you probably are being racist at that moment, and whatever statement that follows or precedes the phrase is probably steeped in racial bias.

Acknowledge how people without your privilege are treated

As a Black woman, I am tired of telling White or Asian people about experiences that I have had only to be told that they are “sure the other person didn’t mean it” or to have them defend the person explaining that they are a good person.  Reality check – “good people” have biases too!  If you are in a privileged group, take a moment to observe the treatment of people who are in a minority group and acknowledge their experience when they explain how it made them feel.

Mindfully manage your privilege

Minority groups regularly deal with microaggressions which may be unintentional but have the impact of making them feel less valued as a member of a team, organisation or sadly society.  Think about what you say to people and why you feel the need to say and do things.  In my case as a straight person, when talking about couples, I will try to refer to partners rather than applying a heteronormative description to a couple.  Also, think about how you describe people.  While research shows that it is difficult for people to identify differentiating features across racial divides, it is more likely for non-Black people to make wild comparisons between how “alike” two completely different Black people are as compared to the converse happening.  Basic advice – think before you speak and think before you do.

Speak out against privilege

Part of the reason that privilege flourishes is because those who have it use it to progress and don’t speak out against it because it benefits them.  Be different.  Success built on the shoulders of another person is a hollow victory.  Have integrity and achieve through your effort not because you are considered to be better than someone else. Also, challenge those around you.  Challenge inappropriate comments and behaviours and most importantly challenge these things even when no one from the impacted group is there, use your voice.  Here is a thought-provoking video about this topic Cracking the Codes: Joy DeGruy “A Trip to the Grocery Store” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wf9QBnPK6Yg


Educate those who share your privilege about what it is and how to disrupt it

Once you have figured out how to counteract your privilege talk to those around you.  If you are a parent, teach your children about privilege and bias and help them to stop the perpetuation of inequality.  As a leader in organisations be a role model for inclusion and help equip other people to use their privilege for good.

If you found this useful, please share this with other people who need to disrupt their privilege.  If it’s too much to read check out this clip from popular TV show Grey’s Anatomy addressed this topic in a scene last year https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvrKrzE0nZY


About the author

Roianne Nedd is a Diversity and Inclusion expert, Coach and Author.  She has dedicated her professional career to improving inclusion in both private sector and public-sector organisations with a particular emphasis on intersectional feminism, unconscious bias, and leadership.

Roianne’s mission in life is to amplify the voices of others to help them find their purpose, unleash their passion and maximise their potential.  Both her consultancy practice, RoCaro and her coaching practice place people at the heart of her products and services.  She is also the proud author of seven books including two self-help books as part of The Cracked Cocoon series.




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