Privilege is the unearned institutional advantage that an individual receives simply by virtue of being a part of a certain social group. It has been described as a current against which oppressed groups swim, the force of it impeding their mobility, while simultaneously propelling the members of the dominant group forward.

The current metaphor

Privilege is almost always invisible to those who have it. Let’s return to the metaphor of a current. When you’re going against a current of water, you feel the force that is working against you, resisting your movements towards your goal. The water gets into your eyes and mouth, and you need to work with all your might to not lose the precious distance that you had gained. But with the current at your back (when you have privilege) you barely notice it. An invisible force propels you forward with little to no effort on your part, and you just let yourself be carried along. You float through the water, outstripping everyone else and reaching your common destination first. This illustrates the way in which members of privileged groups are given unearned advantages that assist their social mobility.

SFPIRG believes that to dismantle systems of oppression, members of dominant groups must recognize the privilege afforded to them. It is only then that folks can tear down the structures embedded in the fabric of society that are advantageous to them, but oppress others.

Suggested Reading

more privilege readings