Answer by Omar Ismail, Stand Up Comedian, on Quora.
I am white. That’s all you know about me. Am I privileged based on that alone and assuming I am, should I feel guilt and what should I do about it?
Consider it this way. All I know about you is you’re tall.
Do you have any advantages?
Does that mean you don’t deserve the can of tuna on the higher shelf? No. Nobody is saying that. Eat away mighty giant.
Should you feel guilty about getting the tuna from the top shelf? No. Nobody is saying that. Lighten your soul’s burden and let it fly free in the clouds beneath your knees.
Does that mean short people can’t get the tuna? No.
Does that mean there aren’t disadvantages of being tall? No.
Nobody is saying that. You have our sympathy for your poor bruised knees.
What people are saying is:
- Denying you are lucky is silly.
- Stop looking bewildered every time a short person can’t reach something. We’re sick of explaining this incredibly simple concept.
- We know there are things you do not have (i.e. even higher shelves).
- We know there may be other things preventing you reaching the high shelves. Maybe you have bad elbows or arthritis. Short people with arthritis are still below you. You are still lucky you are tall.
- It works out well for most people, for the grocery store to put most things on medium shelves.
- If you can help shorter people with things on higher shelves, do so. Why would you not do that? Short people can help you with stuff on lower shelves.
- We are annoyed that the people who run the grocery store put all the best stuff on the top shelves.
- There are a lot of people who are putting things on higher shelves because they hate short people. Don’t associate with those people. They want everything to be about this height:
Same with white. Advantages. It doesn’t mean you’re rich. It doesn’t mean you’re luckier than a lucky black guy. Nobody wants you to be crippled with guilt. Nobody has ever wanted that, or means those things.
It means you have an advantage, and all anyone is asking is that you *get* that. Once you get that, it’s pretty straightforward to all the further implications.
This question originally appeared on Quora: I am white. That’s all you know about me. Am I privileged based on that alone and assuming I am, should I feel guilt and what should I do about it?