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Do you know your privilege? Advocate Frederick Joseph has an eye-opening lesson for you

Korin Miller
·4 min read

Yahoo Life is hosting a five-day challenge to help readers learn one actionable thing each day to be a better ally to the marginalized or disenfranchised people. This is day one of the 5-day challenge.

While it's not a new concept, this year, more than ever, it's become crystal clear that there are disparities between the people who enjoy certain privileges in the U.S. and those who are left out of them. Black people and people of color are disproportionately impacted by higher COVID-19 and death rates and are regularly subjected to police brutality, while transgender people struggle to be treated the same as their cisgender counterparts and women, on the whole, have largely shouldered the burden of balancing work and child-rearing during the pandemic.

That’s why we teamed up with award-winning advocate Frederick Joseph, author of The Black Friend, for the Yahoo Allyship Pledge: 5 day challenge with Frederick Joseph. This is a guided program that anyone can do, with a goal to help you understand privilege, how it can impact your thoughts and what you can do to help others.

"I typically use the words 'accomplice' and 'co-conspirator' instead of 'ally,'" Joseph tells Yahoo Life. "To me, [the words] actually mean that someone was involved. Someone got out there, someone was a part of the action — vs. an ally, who oftentimes can be someone who's on the sidelines.”

Joseph’s goal, he says, is to challenge people to “get out there” and “make some change." Ready to dive in? Here’s an overview of the challenge.

Day one: Take stock of your privilege

Joseph recommends starting out by sitting down and thinking about what privileges you have in society. “In our society and all around us, there are people that face oppression, and there are people who face daily traumas based on various ways that they exist within systems that are built against them,” he says.

Some of your privilege may not be that obvious, Joseph says. “For instance, if you're someone who is a woman versus someone who's a man, then there are ways in which that man has privileges and benefits from a society that might have systems built against you.”

I typically use the words 'accomplice' and 'co-conspirator' instead of 'ally.' To me, [the words] actually mean that someone was involved. Someone got out there, someone was a part of the action — vs. an ally, who oftentimes can be someone who's on the sidelines.Frederick Joseph, Author, The Black Friend

Joseph says it’s important to take an inventory of your privilege, because “when you're starting to try to combat systems that are hindering, traumatizing or oppressing other people, you have to know how you fit into those systems yourself.”

Joseph recommends going through the following checklist to examine your privilege:

  • Gender

  • Caste

  • Sex

  • Race

  • Class

  • Sexuality

  • Religion

  • Physical, Intellectual and Developmental Ability

  • Physical appearance

  • Height

Understanding Intersectionality

“It’s important that we navigate not only the obvious things about ourselves, but also navigate the not so obvious, which is where the term intersectionality comes into play,” Joseph says. “Intersectionality is the idea that there are multiple things that exist at the exact same time.” Joseph points out that he’s a Black, cisgender person, but there are other factors about him that play into privilege. “I also am someone who was lucky enough to go to both college and go to grad school, and other ways in which I have privileges that are intersectional, they're all existing at the same time to essentially give me a mixed bag, if you would, of privilege.”

Joseph recommends actually writing down your privileges. “There's something very special and personal about seeing them on a regular basis and actually putting them down on paper," he says.

To learn more, visit yahoo.com/allyship and look up the Yahoo Allyship pledge.

Video produced by Jacquie Cosgrove

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