However, many of us don't realize how others have to struggle for lifestyles that we take for granted. The truth is, everyone isn't treated equally. College is a time that you come into contact with people who have all types of privilege. By being aware of our inherent advantages and disadvantages, we can understand how others are affected and open up conversations on making equality a reality.
1. Race and Ethnicity
Race refers to physical features of a person that categorize them into a racial group, whereas ethnicity refers to the region(s) that a person's ancestors came from. Stereotypes exist for both.
Racial issues are a huge problem today in the United States. According to US News, about 60% of non-black people believe that black people are less intelligent than white people. It is also more likely for a convicted white man to be hired over a black man with no criminal record.
Many people grow up insecure about how they look due to their race or ethnicity and feel pressure to assimilate into American culture and "look white." Race is something that people find difficult to talk about, but it is necessary. Incidents involving racial hate occur all over the country especially on college campuses. One example of this is Webster University, which was embroiled in a controversy over white supremacy posters posted around campus. Unfortunately, these types of incidents happen often.
2. Sexual Orientation
Identifying as straight is considered the norm in our society. Anyone that isn't straight usually has to "come out," which can be a terrifying experience. Many of those in the LGBTQ+ community hide their sexualities for protection from "social shame."
Also, many religions attack same-sex relationships, which can also cause people to hide their sexualities and even make them feel guilty.
LBGT hate crimes have always been an issue, but particularly started rising after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. This is an especially prevalent issue for LGBTQ+ college students, many of which deal with hate or threats, and only 31% of which believe their university addresses LGBTQ+ issues.
"Homophobia is still a large issue even on college campuses, and I've heard people make fun of guys because they are 'too gay' at a school where a lot of students identify as LGBT." - Anonymous
3. Gender and Gender Identity
White women earn about 78 cents per a man's dollar for the same work. Black and Latina women earn significantly less. Only 15% of women plan to major in a STEM (science, math, engineering, technology) field, which is a field dominated by men.
Women also typically face disrespect and harassment for roles from housewives to CEOs. Women, while sometimes the perpetrators, are often the victims of sexual harassment and assault. Often, they are blamed for what happens to them. 1 in 20 women have been raped compared to 1 in 71 men. 1 in 4 women on a college campus face sexual assault by graduation, and 95% of these go unreported.
Some of us are lucky enough to feel comfortable in the gender we were born in. However, those who are not face a whole myriad of other types of discrimination and problems. According to a study, 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide compared to 1.6% of the total population. Over half have lost a job and dealt with bullying due to their gender identity and 64% dealt with sexual assault. 57% have family that stopped speaking to them, 69% experienced homelessness, and 60% had doctors who refused to treat them.
4. Financial Situation
14.5% of Americans live at or below the poverty line. Many of us are fortunate enough to have our parents pay at least some of our bills, and afford meals, healthcare, a car and a home. Some of us have been able to go to private school or summer camp as kids, or take expensive extra-curricular classes. And a lot of us can afford annual vacations.
However, it is important to recognize that not everyone you interact with has those same opportunities. There are students on your campus who have to work full time jobs in order to also pay for their education, those who worry about putting food on their plate or paying their rent. It is important to recognize that, especially in an environment as monetarily draining as college, there will be a lot of people with low incomes.
"...With my financial situation of being part of a low-income household, I felt even more limited in my opportunities. I always had to find alternatives in order to save money until I was old enough to work...taught me that if I want something, I have to work extra hard for it." - Joyce, 19, UC Berkeley
5. Disability (Physical and Mental)
Besides already making life difficult for someone, disabilities also come with stigma. For example, people with mental illnesses are often labelled as "crazy" and people try to avoid them. This prevents people from getting help for their disabilities.
People with disabilities can face hate crimes, and, disabled students oftentimes feel as though they do not have enough support with classes, activities and campus life in general. Almost all campuses have accommodations and health services available, but they are often under-utilized.
"I am regularly judged for my comparatively inactive lifestyle just because I cannot do the activity others can do on a frequent basis...a lot of people try to discredit my disability because they cannot physically see it. It's still there." - Anonymous
Certain religions are targeted more than others. The largest religions attacked in hate crimes are Judaism, Islam and ethnic religions. Recently, Islam has been heavily attacked due to terrorist groups such as ISIS who claim that they are representatives of the religion. However, we must remember that every religion has extremists, and those cannot represent the majority of the faith practicers.
At universities, more and more students are abandoning religion. Most schools accommodate religious practices and have clubs for different religions. However, discrimination still exists. In recent studies, it has been shown that students are disinterested in welcoming Mormons and Muslims, as well as less prevalent religions. Also, hate speech is still prominent online and with graffiti on campus.
This has particularly been brought to public debate after President Trump decided to end DACA, a program that protects those who came to the US as children. Non-citizens can attend American universities, but have limits on where they can work and how long they can stay, despite being financially essential to universities. DACA protects undocumented college students. Only 7,000-13,000 undocumented students are enrolled in college, and most cannot apply for financial aid of any type.
Personally, I know family and friends who cannot enter the US because they are not citizens (even if they lived in the US for years). If you are a citizen, you are lucky. You don't have to live in fear of being forced to leave, and you can leave the country with comfort in knowing you will be allowed back in.
8. Education Level
81% of high school students graduate. If you are enrolled in university, you are already privileged, even if you worked for this privilege. Many people can not attend school for financial or personal reasons.
About 60% of college students graduate. Dropouts face higher rates of unemployment. Degrees are not as common as we think.
There are other types of privilege, but these are the eight primary forms that affect people daily. It is important to keep your privilege in mind when you talk to someone else about political issues, or life in general. Just because you are privileged does not mean that you still cannot struggle. However, by paying attention to the struggles of others, you can be more respectful of their backgrounds and avoid offending them or coming off as ignorant.
Lead Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons