‘Privilege Check’ is part of WFPL News’ year-long project The Next Louisville: Race, Ethnicity and Culture.

In the United States, we like to think that our success is determined only by how hard we work. But in reality, some of it’s just luck. And some of that luck has to do with things we can’t control: Our race. Our gender. Our sexual orientation. What language we grow up speaking.

We might not ask for the advantages we get from those things, but we still get them. And that’s what’s known as privilege.

In “Privilege Check,” we explore the concept of privilege, how it affects our lives and how it can be used to make everyone more equal. It’s part of the Next Louisville, a partnership of WFPL News and the Community Foundation of Louisville.

Listen to the hour-long discussion — hosted by WFPL’s Tara Anderson and Strange Fruit‘s Kaila Story — in the player above.

Below, you can listen to extended segments on the types of privilege we examined in detail.

 

Privilege 101

In 1989, Peggy McIntosh, a women’s studies scholar at Wellesley, published her landmark piece, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Drawing on work by W.E.B. Du Bois and Theodore Allen, she said living in the United States as a white person was like wearing a weightless, unseen knapsack filled with tools, maps, guides, passports and blank checks.

McIntosh joins us in this segment, along with David Owen. He’s chair of the Philosophy Department at the University of Louisville, and his scholarship focuses on how systems of racism perpetuate themselves.

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Male Privilege

Peggy McIntosh’s epiphany about white people being treated better than people of color was inspired, partially, by how men responded to scholarship by women. That was in the 1980s. But being a man still has its advantages.

Here, Kaila Story and Jaison Gardner, co-hosts of WFPL’s Strange Fruit, speak with state Rep. Mary Lou Marzian and Women’s and U of L Gender Studies Professor Dawn Heinecken about how they’ve seen male privilege play out in their careers and lives.

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White Privilege

We touched a little on white privilege in the first segment, since that’s the kind of privilege “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” addressed. But we wanted talk more deeply about how white privilege manifests in everyday life, and particularly in the legal system and the lives of children of color.

Joining us in this segment are U of L Pan-African Studies professor and attorney Elizabeth Jones, and Duane Campbell, author of “From Pre-School to the Penitentiary.”

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Ability Privilege

What do we take for granted about the world if we’re not living with a disability? What do you do when you’re at home, and you have to go to the bathroom? You go, right? For activist Amanda Stahl, it’s not that simple.

We talked with Stahl about how the world reacts to her as a woman diagnosed with cerebral palsy, who uses a wheelchair. We also talked with Yalonda J.D. Green about her experiences living with rheumatoid arthritis, and what it’s like to have an invisible chronic illness.

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Language Privilege

When you use a wheelchair, or you’re black, or male, people might assume certain things about you just based on your appearance. If you’re living in a country where your native language isn’t the most common language, sometimes the trouble doesn’t start until you open your mouth.

We talked with Karina Barillas, director of the La Casita Center, who moved to the U.S. from Guatemala as a Fulbright Scholar. We also talked with musician and journalist Luis DeLeón about the unseen advantages that come with living in a place where your native language is the main language.

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The Next Louisville: Race, Ethnicity and Culture is a partnership between WFPL News and the Community Foundation of Louisville. Through the project, we are seeking to produce journalism that informs, engages and inspires conversation about our city’s most pressing issues. For more of this year’s work, visit this page.

Laura produces Curious Louisville, Strange Fruit, and other audio news stories for WFPL.