The privilege of being right

Photo by Tuur Tisseghem on

No, that’s not a typing error. And yes, I am writing about White Privilege today.

I think I get it.

Did you know that I am three times as likely to die in an accident than most of my readers? It’s not because I’m a risk taker. It’s because I’m left-handed.

There’s a privilege right-handers have that, unless they are close to a lefty, they never have to think about. The world is set up for right-handed people.

Most doors are meant to be opened with the right hand. Scissors, ladles, serrated knives, can-openers are all designed for right-handed people.

In the past, some career paths were limited to right-handed people. For example, lefties weren’t allowed to be draftsmen because the drag of their wrist across the page smudged the drawings. Same with engineering. I’ll bet cartoonist was another career path that south-paws had trouble breaking into.

Remember the tests which required a No. 2 pencil for the answer sheet for SAT and ACT tests? Definitely and disadvantage for a left-handed person.

When I stop to think about it, right-privilege even seeps into our vocabulary. The word “sinister” means left. And what about the way children learn right from left? The hand a child writes with is the right (correct) hand, the other one is the one that is left(over.)

Sometimes I get frustrated by the need to adapt to the right-handed world. Especially when I’m trying to reverse direction to a crochet pattern. I never got the hang of crocheting right-handed, although I can knit right-handed.

Right-handed people go through life not thinking of themselves as privileged to be right-handed, they just are. If you’re a righty, chances are you don’t give a second thought to how lefties constantly adjust.

To be honest, I don’t think about it much either. Because, you know, adjusting is my way of life. Most of the time, I’m unaware that the world around me is set up to disadvantage me.

Maybe thinking about the right-privilege can shed light on White Privilege.

It’s almost impossible to consider you have privileges when, you yourself are struggling to stay employed, pay the bills, and provide a lifestyle where your children feel secure.

But, that’s not what White Privilege is about.

It’s about the automatic leg-up a person has, just because of their skin pigment. Things that you just don’t think about because you don’t have to and you never had to. It’s just not part of your consciousness.

It’s about all the constant adjustment of manners, dress, and deportment a person of color makes to avoid looking sinister. Like never wearing a hoody and sweatpants to a Little League ballgame.

It’s about staying conscious of the surroundings because danger could be present in the places white people take for granted will be safe. Like bird-watching in a park.

It’s about the biases built into the environment that make it harder for a person of color to succeed. Like banning “natural” hair in the workplace.

We white people go through life not thinking of ourselves as privileged to be white, we just are. For the most part, we don’t give a second thought to how anyone else constantly adjusts to the world because we don’t have to adjust.

It’s time to give it some thought, don’t you think? It’s time that “Do the right thing,” mean becoming mindful of what is the even-handed thing.