Mmegi Blogs :: PRACTICAL PRIVILEGE: Definition
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Last Updated
Monday 15 October 2018, 15:57 pm.
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PRACTICAL PRIVILEGE: Definition

At our most basic, each of us has a combination of unearned advantages and disadvantages. These are based on various factors, including place in birth order, body type, complexion, the opportunity to freely express one’s gender and identity, the relationship to spoken or written work and education, parent's place of origin, parent's relationship with Setswana and English, religious beliefs, economic status, sexuality, and sexual orientation.
By Lesego Nswahu Nchunga Mon 14 May 2018, 14:13 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: PRACTICAL PRIVILEGE: Definition








This list is by no means exhaustive of the factors  considered when contemplating one’s unearned benefits and hindrances.

These pluses and detriments are of course affected by other aspects, and may vary from one moment to the other. They are dependent on who we are speaking with, where we are, who we are seeing, our gender and often normative conditioning, as well as what we are required to do at a certain juncture.

All this, is an extensive way of placing us in the mind frame that, we are all privileged. And further to have us acknowledge that there are those amongst us more privileged than others, at any given minute, and in all interactions. In this way, we can therefore start to construe oppression as caused by our inherent privileges and the wants of those not as privileged. This is one of the many roots of discrimination.

We can have a constructive discussion about privilege without feeling the need to rehash the hardship we or those that came before us, have suffered in arriving to where we are, and in leaving us the various legacies we currently enjoy, or endure.

Perhaps this will then open us up to a productive engagement on actual daily oppression in the nuances of individual human experiences. This can only come about once we acknowledge that there are patterns and systems in social life, which influence our individual experiences, and around which our lives are fashioned. I suppose it is a roundabout way of saying, our history is constantly chasing us; hunting us down and dragging us back to ourselves. So the question, in checking our privilege, should be, “who am I?”

The Constitution of Botswana, at Chapter 2, in the Bill of Rights, places all persons in equal standing before the law. Various rights are given to us, by the state, and are with us from birth or upon entry into the sate of Botswana. Section 3 of the Constitution in particular, says that every person in Botswana is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms, being right to life, liberty, security and protection of the law; freedoms of conscience, expression, association and assembly; protection for the privacy of their home and their other property from deprivation without compensation.

In recognising privilege,

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the Constitution specifically says that equality before the law shall subsist despite a person’s race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, creed or sex subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of ‘others’. So in asking, “who am I?” insofar as inherent human rights, we must place ourselves squarely within the Bill of Rights. Having done so, the question of who is the “other” in the same manner, should place everyone else in the same place as I am in, in the Bill of Rights. Of course there are numerous factors which will differ, as listed earlier. However this should be a starting point on how we interact with others on a daily basis. Should I be accorded the same treatment?

The Court explored the breadth of the meaning of “every person” in the Thuto Rammoge and 19 Others v AG and another, popularly known as the LEGABIBO Registration case. It did so with a view to determining whether or not the list at Section 3, of instances that may bring about privilege and oppression, was exhaustive.

The Court ruled that in fact, the list is not at all comprehensive, and should in fact be read as extensively as possible to include sexual orientation. Therefore, it can be read into the Constitution that every person, no matter their sexual orientation, and by extension, no matter their identity and expression, is entitled to fundamental rights and freedoms.

Often we think of privilege as a cosmetic construct, a moot point, or something theoretical and not applying to our daily existence.

We want to present the narrative that because there are those more privileged than we are, this therefore negates and even invalidates our own privilege. So, we think that because we are not as privileged, we are harmless. Anyone who fails to see their own privilege, however, is dangerous.

If you are still wondering, yes, you are privileged. How privileged? Ask yourself this, what do I have, that enables me to be successful, that I did not earn, that can work against others? Only if we treat our own lives as testimonies to our experiences can we begin to undo what dominant societal expectations have conditioned us to do: to tear each other down. Check your privilege!

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Mon 14 May 2018, 14:13 pm
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