Sept. 28, 2017 | To be accepting of one another and work to unify the country, individuals must better understand their privileges and identify ways to help others, said Sara Tariq, M.D., assistant dean for undergraduate clinical education in the UAMS College of Medicine.
The interactive, lunchtime talk Sept. 20 was the third in a series of events sponsored by the UAMS Center for Diversity Affairs to celebrate UAMS Diversity Month.
Privilege is a set of unearned benefits afforded to a group of people, often inherently, that can include financial status, race, property, freedom, education and culture, said Tariq. Privilege can come with many negative connotations, said Tariq; however, having privilege is not an insult or accusation.
“Privilege doesn’t mean you have lived a life free of suffering or free of challenges,” she said. “It doesn’t infer you’re a bad or selfish person and it doesn’t denote you didn’t work hard to get where you are, nor does it mean you’re a racist.”
The important step is to recognize privilege. To emphasize the point, Tariq quoted Peggy McIntosh, a well-known professor at Wellesley College in Massachusetts who said failing to reckon with privilege means settling for a partial view of reality.
Still quoting McIntosh, Tariq said to identify privilege, individuals must be able to see patterns and systems throughout social life and also care about others’ individual experiences.
“Oftentimes, we feel unheard and that’s part of the problem when it comes to the discussion of privilege,” said Tariq. “It’s making ourselves stand back and make sure we’re listening to what the other person is saying.”
Tariq invited the audience to take part in a 20-question survey to help better identify its individual advantages. The questions ranged from marriage equality, discrimination, the recognition of religious holidays and the representation of the individual’s race, nationality and religion within society.
Following the exercise, Tariq encouraged the audience to find ways to help others, whether it’s by advocating for a specific cause or finding simple ways in daily life to be hospitable.
“It can be as simple as smiling and greeting someone,” said Tariq. “That might be enough to create a little bit of safety for that person in that space. It’s important to be an ally.”