It takes courage to speak truth to power. It takes courage to live authentically. It takes courage to give more of yourself to those around you than you take for yourself. It takes courage to fight for your right to live your life. For many, it takes courage just to get out of bed in the morning.
Countless millions summon the courage every day to face the public as their true identity, knowing that they'll be on the receiving end of bigotry, misogyny, racism, homophobia, ageism, ableism, or any other embodiment of discrimination. They know all too well the deep and lasting pain these embodiments of ignorance, hate, or both can cause. Yet, they summon the courage anyway.
Members of marginalized communities must summon a level of courage every day the majority of us need only summon on rare occasion.
A dear friend, and advocate for the neurodivergent community has been very open about her struggles as a "disabled autistic" trying to navigate a society not built for her. Sara Jane Harvey, better known as Agony Autie, is no different than any of us, in all of the ways that matter. She's a human. She's a daughter. She's a mother. She's any and all of the things she can summon the courage to be every day. To me, she is an inspiration. And yet, she navigates a world where she is cast as an other. She lives in a world where words like idiot, retard, crazy, unstable, cripple, and the like are used to describe people. She lives in a world where well-known climate change activist, Greta Thunberg, is on the receiving end of those very same epithets and slurs for displaying a profound passion for looking after our planet. Yes, Greta is also neurodivergent.
It doesn't take courage to face the world every day when you enjoy the privileges I do.
I am going to use a word that many reading this may be uncomfortable with – privilege. While the discomfort of honestly assessing one's own privilege is a vital and important topic to delve into, that will have to be saved for another article. For now, we'll address the more common misconception of privilege by properly defining it here.
Privilege is not simply about wealth, as many have been taught to believe. Privilege is about enjoying special rights, immunity (free from discrimination or persecution), and benefits beyond the advantage of others. I am not wealthy. I am a person of privilege. As a cisgender, straight, caucasian male, in our society, I enjoy special rights, immunity and benefits beyond the advantage of others. I did not earn these privileges. I was born with them. I had no choice in the matter of my gender, sexual orientation, skin color or sex. I was dealt this hand.
Everyone who shares these same characteristics also enjoys the same unearned privileges I do. Any who deny that fact have either not properly acquainted themselves with the definition of privilege, or–more dangerously–know but don't care.
A close friend recently made a comment to me that caught me off guard. "You really are courageous for speaking out and publicly sharing your positions." I realize this was meant as a compliment, and I accepted it as such, but it left me pondering the true meaning of courage.
It doesn't take much courage for those of us in a position of privilege to feel safe.
It doesn't take very much courage to face the world every day when you enjoy the privileges I do. It doesn't even take much courage to write this article or speak my truth.
My privileges immunize me against the myriad hate aimed at those without my privilege that openly share the same views I do.
My privilege provides me special rights as a straight male, to have a relationship with and marry whomever I want. There are no laws that prevent me from getting married to the person I love.
My privilege affords me immeasurable benefits in business and society, because I am a caucasian male.
No one has ever told me, "Wow! I had no idea a man could do that." No one has ever told me, "Oh, that must be a white thing." The sad truth is, even in the twenty-first century, those statements are made about women and people of color on a daily basis.
The American Courage Index measures Emotional Courage, Social Courage, Intellectual Courage and Business Courage. Their findings are quite revealing. Overwhelmingly, those who assess themselves as tacitly courageous are–no surprises here–cisgender, straight, caucasian males. However, when the probative questions followed, they (we) generally ranked lowest in emotional courage and intellectual courage. Members of marginalized communities must summon a level of courage every day the majority of us need only summon on rare occasion. It takes courage to face the systemic trauma of oppression and discrimination so deeply engrained in our society. Conclusion: It doesn't take much courage for those of us in a position of privilege to feel safe.
My dear friend who offered a compliment about my courage to take a public stand, build a business and speak my truth about the importance of allyship was not wrong or misguided in their effort. But, if the true measure of allyship is in the extension of privilege to empower those in marginalized groups, I humbly accept the praise, and choose to extend that praise of courage to those who demonstrate more of it in one day (out of necessity) than I am required to demonstrate in a lifetime.
TOGETHERNESS > Otherness!