How to be an ally: 'Checking your privilege' to promote diversity
Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, February 6, 2017 9:09AM EST
Amid a wave of xenophobic and anti-immigrant sentiment from far-right elements in North America, one advocate says the best way to maintain a tolerant Canadian society is to recognize our privilege and speak up for those who don't share the same advantages.
That means people from all backgrounds – whether a 30-year-old Caucasian man, a 60-year-old Muslim woman or a 10-year-old Asian boy – need to learn how to "check" their privilege, according to activist Rania El Mugammar.
Checking your privilege means "learning all the different ways that we're included along with all the different ways we're excluded," El Mugammar, a Sudanese-Canadian artist and educator, told CTV's Your Morning on Monday. El Mugammar defined privilege as "any part (of your life) where you're in the centre of the story, where your identity is the norm, and everybody else is outside."
She pointed out that there are many ways a person can be privileged, from obvious ones like race, gender or economic status, to others like age, health or religion.
"Even though I am a Muslim immigrant black woman, I am privileged in certain ways that other people are not, and that doesn't make me a bad person, but it does compel me to action."
But the effort shouldn't stop there, she said. It's important to use one's privilege to challenge friends and family on things like racism and homophobia. "Don't let it slide," she said. "I think we're seeing how that kind of rhetoric becomes really dangerous very quickly."
El Mugammar is offering to teach people how to "check your privilege" with a class in Toronto called: "How to be an Ally: Anti-Oppression 101."
"Our big focus is really to get people to tap into their capacities for empathy," El Mugammar said. She acknowledged that some people might get defensive when they hear the phrase "check your privilege," but she insists it's important to get "comfortable with being uncomfortable."
"Checking your privilege is about leveraging it and acknowledging it without making it about your feelings," she said.