I'm sure I'm not the only person around who teaches students in one or another class about privilege, specifically the race privilege that white folks in the US have, the gender privilege that men in patriarchy have, and the class privilege that folks such as myself have.
When I do so, I think I do so for a couple reasons. First, I want students to be aware that life isn't just, and that they aren't where they are solely because of merit.
And second, and probably more important, I want students to resist unwarranted privilege when they can. I know there are times when you can't resist privilege for a variety of reasons. Or times when you haven't figured out how to resist privilege. As a white woman, I notice when the bank is willing to write me a mortgage for a house without asking if I don't have a husband. But I don't know if the bank is treating people of colorin the same way. I don't know if my realtor is showing me houses in all the neighborhoods that might suit my needs, or is s/he's showing people of color with the same housing criteria different houses.
But there are times when I can resist privilege. I can make sure that I'm not waited on ahead of someone else in line, for example. And I can work myself to make sure that I treat all my students (and other folks) with respect. Those are little things.
If I'm not willing to try to resist white privilege (or middle age privilege), then I figure I'd have no right to expect the white men who run things to resist their privilege even a little.
Recently, someone led me to question my hope there. This is someone who's committed to teaching about privilege, but who doesn't seem to think that recognizing privilege entails some responsibility to try to resist privilege.
So, I ask you, wisdom of the web, why do we teach students about privilege?
Do we consider ourselves successful if a white male, having learned to recognize privilege, does his best to take advantage of his white male privilege?