Some people get things and some people don’t: how do you explain privilege to your kids?

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Day 173: Awareness of Privilege
Photo by quinn.anya, used under Creative Commons license.
I’m curious: how do various offbeat parents explain privilege to your kids? Not the “you’ve lost your computer privileges for the day, young lady!” kind of privilege, but the kind of privilege we talk about in social justice work: advantages our society hands to people based on their (perceived or actual) identities and experiences.

Privilege, oppression, diversity, empowerment, dis-empowerment — any parents out there have input? — Maisha

Have you had this talk with your kids yet? How did you explain privilege in the context of the society you live in? Are there age-appropriate guidelines to abide by?

Comments on Some people get things and some people don’t: how do you explain privilege to your kids?

  1. Many department stores will have some sort of “tree of giving” program before Christmas. On each ornament is a wishlist from a child (or sometimes adults) in need. What my mother would do is find a child like us in likes and age, and fulfill that child’s list– one year, mine was “Age nine. Girl. Likes dragons and fairies. Loves Barbie. Size 7 clothes, warm please.” My mother would then give us a gift that tied in with that kid’s present. That year I got some kind of off-brand fairy Barbie. It taught me that, while I didn’t really need anything, I could make giving fun.

    When I was older, when my brother and I were in our teens, we would gather cheap hats, gloves, and socks throughout the year. On the coldest day of the year, we would make a huge batch of soup and a huge batch of cider and take them around in our minivan, handing out food and clothes to homeless people near shelters, under the freeway, etc. It taught us to not be afraid of people less fortunate than us.

    My big brother wound up being intermittently homeless, and these days, my family is a paycheck away from eviction. In doing what we could then, I think that bought us a little good karma so that maybe, if things go badly, we’ll be treated kindly out there.

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