Using your cards of privilege

Using your cards of privilege

I wholeheartedly believe that love conquers hate; the problem is, hate is louder.

Everyone is dealt a hand when they are born. Everyone will have played that hand by the time they leave.

My hand, like everyone’s, is mixed. I hold some cards that can cause me to be marginalized for, discriminated against. I’m autistic, gay, suffered mental illness and female. These make me a great diversity hire but can cause me to have to go against the grain in life. I also hold cards that enable privilege, including being white and British, CIS, physically abled.

How I use these cards throughout my life helps determine the contribution I make to society, the mark I leave on this world. In life the cards I am marginalised for are generally the ones I would think of first, to make a difference. I can go to pride events, I can advocate for autistics, I can support the feminist movement. However, these areas are likely to be significantly influenced by those holding cards of privilege: straight people, neurotypicals (not autistic), males. That is not to say those voices are more important, they are far less important than the marginalised (but often there are more of them).

With privilege comes a responsibility to take accountability for what we do with it it. If a card of privilege is not used, if a voice is not spoken, you have sided with the oppressor. Doing nothing, does not remove this accountability. Doing nothing is always siding with the oppressor.

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
— Desmond Tutu

I know there are far more good people in this world than bad. The problem is the good guys holding those cards, are not using them. Using your privilege in support of the unprivileged does not mean getting the rainbows and glitter out and marching through town.

It means white people shutting down ‘all lives matter’ conversations and acknowledging we have no idea what it is like to be persecuted because of the colour of our skin. To stand in alliance and support those that do.

It means men acknowledging that we damn well know it is not ‘all men’. Stand with us. This can be simple things like not joining in with offensive jokes, encouraging an environment where women are included and respected.  

It means using your own experiences in one marginalised group (most of us belong to at least one) to fight for another. It means those within the LGBT community not standing for transphobia and biphobia.

Someone using straight privilege:

Straight person A: making comments bordering on homophobia about same sex parents. It was intended as a joke, said laughingly. But I felt uncomfortable.

Straight person B: laughed off person A’s comments and added that they actually thought same sex parents would be really cool.

Person B had shut down the casual homophobia and made it clear they weren’t continuing with it. Now don’t get me wrong person A is not homophobic. Person B did not make a big deal out of it - but in one jokey returned comment they had shut it down from escalating, placing their own privilege firmly against jokes at the expense of gay people. And I sat with a smile, believing people can make a difference, with every day conversations.

By the end of our lives we will have played our cards, whether you want to consciously acknowledge that or not.

How many times have you caught eye contact with someone after a comment was made that both of you thought was out of line, it was offensive, it went too far? But you said nothing. You nervously smile along. The silently outraged need to find their voices.

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.
— Martin Luther King, Jr

How many white people reading this have never really thought about the fact they are white? How many Brits have no idea what it is like to be judged on your accent and not on your words? How many straight people have never had to question if it is safe to hold your partners hand, never even thought about it?

If you aren’t part of the problem, then stand up and be part of the solution. Use your privilege, your voice as one of the majority to amplify the voices of the marginalised.

By the end of our lives we will have played our cards, whether you want to consciously acknowledge that or not.

Use the hand you have been dealt with conscious intent if you do not wish to side with the oppressor.


I feel I missed a chance to make a ‘playing the gay card’ joke in here somewhere!? I’m an advocate not a comedian:p

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