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What I Have Learned About Privilege: Never Mind White Privilege - Being From A Minority Is A Privilege Too

04/08/2017 10:54 | Updated 08 August 2017

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This is a very personal point of view. And it is my point of view. But I do hope that some of it, if not all of it will be meaningful to those who choose to read it.

I'm a gay Indian man, and I am very good at my job. I have been recognised and rewarded for being so. I have had the privilege of enjoying an international career path that has afforded me the opportunity to live and work in six countries, travel to many more and make friends all over the world. 

I was recently asked by a journalist at an industry event, if I have ever had to encounter racism and homophobia. It felt like an obvious question to me, because it has a very obvious answer. Obviously racism and homophobia are part and parcel of what's made life interesting for me on a routine basis. But then she asked me if that's ever been an issue for me, holding me back, making me feel less deserving. 

To her utter surprise, I spoke immediately, and with no hesitation that I never felt that way because I've never really "allowed" it to become a big deal. Clearly this was not the answer that was expected of me, which lead to a bigger conversation where it became apparent that it might be so because I see my experiences of being part of a so called visible minority as one of my biggest strengths. 

Privilege is defined as an advantage or immunity that only certain groups of people can enjoy or use to their benefit.

Everyone talks about white privilege - but there is significant privilege inherent in being from a minority; if you harness the power. 

Let me explain.

Stereotypes are systemic. Oppression is systemic. It's the default setting of our society to maintain the status quo - it's what makes normal 'normal'. You can't change that - but you can change yourself.

I have learned that you don't have to accept the limits that other people impose on you, but you can learn from them, then set your own limits.

You have the power not to FEEL oppressed. In my experience, feeling oppressed is a learned behavior. You can acknowledge that it exists but you don't have to feed it. Instead, focus on being able to digest, absorb, learn and move ahead - with intelligence.

Celebrate the fact that you're not like everyone else, and don't let it ever hold you back. Instead, use your difference to propel yourself forward. It's my personal ambition to make people understand that it can be a strength if you let it be. 

I once auditioned for the school play and got the part; despite the fact that practically every one told me I didn't have the features, the accent, or the look to land the part. But I wanted to act, and I knew instinctively that acting is all about becoming the part. Not being the part. Whilst people can see what you are, they can't possibly dictate or predict what you can become. Potential is very personal.

I learned early; from that experience, that there is no point in acknowledging what doesn't serve your best self. When people try and make you feel like you're the different one and therefore perhaps not good enough, and you accept that, you're giving them the power. Don't even acknowledge it. Don't internalise it. How is internalising information that you may not be good enough, going to serve your will to move forward, be more, become more, shine more. 

I have learned to be thankful to the naysayers, because they prepare us very early to be intelligent in a unique way.

Adaptive intelligence is a privilege to possess and this brand of intelligence is easily born out of these experiences. It equips you to navigate these complexities in your life and your career with exemplary grace, allowing you to advance with confidence. 

As we drew that conversation to an end, it struck me that I have learned that if you are stuck in clichéd normality, surrounded with people who look like just you and think just like you, you're never going to have to truly challenge yourself.  You will not necessarily develop adaptive intelligence skills as quickly, easily, or as early in life  - and that's an advantage we have, because chances are, we will often if not always, be surrounded by people who are not like us. 
That's a privilege. And it's ours.

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