Instead, we see through privilege as it were a lens. We assume we are seeing things in their absolute reality, neither magnified nor tinted. Often more damaging, we assume everyone should see what "we see." If they don't see the world as we see it, we blame it on their lenses, lenses that are so evident to us.
Privilege is especially insidious in distorting our view. It causes us to see others through a filter that discounts them or assumes their plight may be of their own doing - a set of bad choices or the lack of trying. When I hear "why don't they just get at job" or "if they would just work harder they would get the promotion" - it's often (not always) privilege speaking.
Sometimes these lenses are glasses, sometimes they are contacts, sometimes the lens of privilege is thick like cataracts. Scariest of all, sometimes a lens of privilege is so deeply rooted, it becomes our own psychological corneas - feeding bias and prejudices.
Privilege can be genetically engineered by generations of family advantage until it literally becomes a part of our soul. Our children and grandchildren lose all perspective because they have lived a life of privilege. They never even consider that their entire life was structured through privilege based on their race, ethnicity, or an ancestor’s prosperity (however created).
Actually seeing that we have a lens of privilege is much harder than looking through it. But if we take the time to understand it’s there - and that our lens of privilege creates distorted images (both of ourselves and others) - the payoff is infinitely worth the effort.
Repair of our distorted views begins with extending love without judgement. Love never fails. Love necessarily produces humility. Love gives us the opportunity to see, to admit and to remove our own damaging lenses. And, with practice, giving others the benefit of the doubt will allow us to really see others as they are, not simply as we imagined.
Michael is an executive coach, entrepreneur, investor, and strategist with 30 years of experience leading investor-backed, high-growth organizations.
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