Two posters on UOIT campus in February caught the attention of students as well as the Toronto Star and the Toronto Sun.
The first poster’s objective was to draw attention to privileges such as male, heterosexual, white, Christian, etc. and the second poster invited students to consider what privileges they would check off.
The posters were taken down because a number of students complained and labelled the posters “offensive” and “racist.”
The posters were not offensive or racist but rather a way of bringing awareness to the fact that people of colour or physically disabled people are marginalized, while dominant race and non-disabled individuals are privileged.
The privileges certain groups of people enjoy should be recognized and acknowledged.
Being able to help one another is a way of uniting together as a group regardless of ethnicity, religious and gender differences.
Acknowledging that one might have access to specific resources is one of the very first steps to help those who don’t have access to such resources.
This step towards change in society is needed because discrimination in the workplace still exists. According to a study from Harvard Business School, employers are most likely to hire a minority with a “whitened” resume, which means that these candidates delete references from their background hoping to be more qualified for the job.
The study shows that those candidates are more likely to get hired than the ones who kept their references, proving that these employers prefer hiring white candidates rather minorities no matter the skills of the individual.
One might argue that a person must achieve their goals on their own regardless of their race. This is the message the privilege posters were trying to draw attention to except the posters were taken out of context.
If the more privileged people in society were able to recognize that sometimes minorities have to hide their background to be considered for a job interview or anything else they’re faced with, discrimination wouldn’t be a big problem.
Being aware of having certain privileges would help eliminate oppression in our society because it would give those who are prejudiced a chance to voice their opinions, to be heard and to supported. This would generate a positive change.
A great example of this is police brutality, racial profiling and sexism.
In Canada, Indigenous communities are more targeted by the police than any other race.
According to Capitol News, in 1997 Indigenous represented 12 per cent of the prison population. In 2016, the rate went up by 26 per cent. At 4.3 per cent of the population, the Indigenous community represents 25 per cent of inmates. Indigenous communities are being discriminated against.
Some people might presume the privilege posters are not enough to help fight discrimination like this, but they are one of many of steps being made to find a solution to this often-ignored societal issue.
For instance, when a disabled person finds no access to an elevator, the privilege of accessing other floors in a building is lost. Acknowledging that being able-bodied is a privilege is a step that will help to increase accessible areas for disabled individuals.
A person can help those who need accessibility without checking the privilege box on the UOIT posters but the message behind the posters is a reminder: help those in need by changing how you see privilege.
Therefore, checking the privilege box isn’t racist or trying to make those who are privileged feel guilty for what they’ve got. It’s a way of uplifting one another.
The white race is the privileged race in this society because the white race has access to resources minorities lack.
There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to fight discrimination but recognizing that it still exists is the key to successfully fighting it.
The world isn’t fair. But it’s what’s done next that will determine whether individuals can make a change.