Some Quick Thoughts on Privilege

Privilege. Where do I even begin when sharing my thoughts on the concept of privilege?  Perhaps with a quick, less-than-academic definition. In short, privilege is merely a special societal right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people. Nothing more; nothing less. It simply means some aspect of your existence or background gives you an advantage that not everyone else has that you might take for granted. While most folks have heard about white privilege, nearly everyone has some type privilege. Having one type of privilege (being white, being straight, etc.) or multiple privileges doesn’t mean you had an easy life or that you didn’t bust your ass to get where you are.

Despite this simple concept, few phrases seem to incite the level of anger as when you ask someone to “check their privilege.” Look, nobody wants to be told they had it easy. We all get that. But here’s the rub, if someone asks you to check your privilege they aren’t attacking you. Seriously. They’re asking you to simply acknowledge the fact that you may not share their characteristics and that they’d appreciate it if you could take a moment to consider how their background means they encountered or continue to encounter different struggles than you’ve had.

For reasons beyond my understanding some people apparently believe acknowledging the difficulties others face somehow invalidates or diminishes their own struggles. Fuck that noise. Grow up. Hell, if anything, they are giving you an opportunity to actually pause and reflect on the things you take for granted. It’s also important to note, and I’ll likely cover it in more depth in the future, that those of us in marginalized groups are not immune to needing a privilege check from time to time. I belong to one of the largest groups of marginalized people on the planet – people with disabilities – but being disabled doesn’t make me less white and last time I checked I’m still a dude. Even with all my pains, my limp, and my cane I’m still a straight, white, cisgender male. I’ve got privilege pouring out the ass. Buckets of privilege.

My experiences as a disabled person are not diminished by taking the time to understand that, as a white person, I’ve taken for granted the fact that I'll likely never be followed around a store by a suspicious employee.

My experiences as a disabled person are not diminished by taking the time to understand that, as a guy, the odds of me getting groped by a creeper on a subway train is waaaaaaaay lower than it is for women.    

My experiences as a disabled person are not diminished by taking the time to realize, as a cisgender male, I’m not going to risk having to defend my choice of bathroom if I ever bother to visit North Carolina.   

Limping out of the primordial ooze...

Hello everyone! Since this is my first official website and first blog I guess some introductions are in order. My name is Patrick Dennis and I joined the disability community in 2003, although I didn't know it until late 2004 when I was finally diagnosed with what was dubbed "early aggressive" rheumatoid arthritis (RA). When I had my first flare up I could barely walk and couldn't do most daily tasks. It took me nearly seven years of flare ups, medication cocktails and good ole' perseverance to really learn how to live my life with RA but during that time I found my path towards disability advocacy. I became intimately aware of how crappy society treats disabled people and how much work needs to be done to change hearts, minds and laws. I've since attended and graduated law school and worked with a number of fine advocacy organizations.

I plan to use this blog to discuss a wide variety of disability issues but I'm also hoping to use it as a way to amplify the voices of others fighting for basic civil rights across the board. Intersectionality is vital to justice and I won't shy away from being an advocate or an ally when appropriate for me to do so. It is important to note that not every topic I discuss will give you warm fuzzies and that is probably for the best. I'm here to talk about tough stuff. If you're looking for inspiration porn or somebody to help you rationalize your ableism, sexism, white fragility or whatever you should probably google map your way out of here quickly. 

That said, I also intend the use this site to house my thoughts on my other interests as well - sometimes through the lense of disability but sometimes not. Like other disabled people I enjoy a wide variety of hobbies and interests such as gaming, comics, working out, and playing with my two dogs. For the record, they are the most adorable dogs in the world and there is no way they won't make an appearance on this site from time to time. I'm also currently trying to learn how to draw so expect some terrible illustrations along the way as well.  

Some of you may may be wondering why I've named the site Limping and Strutting. Maybe you aren't but I'll explain it anyway since this is my site, dammit. Since becoming ill at the age of 22/23 I have often found myself having to explain to friends, acquaintances, customers, clients, and random, nosy assholes on the street why I am limping or using my cane. "I'm not limping, I'm strutting!" became a bit of a catch-phrase of mine and I would throw a little extra sauce into my already-wobbly walk and promptly putter away. Well, OK, nothing involving my walk can really be considered prompt. In the roughly 13 years since my diagnosis I have learned that, while I was initially making a joke, the truth of that matter is I can both limp AND strut in equal measure. Having a disability informs how I live my life but it does not define me. It is not an either/or situation. I can limp and strut like a totally disabled boss!