Privilege, class, and social inequalities— we’ve heard them all. But do we really understand what they signify?
Just recently Manny Pacquaiao’s son Michael dropped a bomb on his rapping and singing performance that viraled across social media as he wanted to pursue the music industry. He has also released his first album on Spotify just last month.
But this pursuit of musical success of Michael, got backlash from some netizens which triggered a discussion about privilege. The discussion of privilege is always relevant at all times. All of us have some sort of privilege which is part of our identity in the society.
The concept of privilege has complex correlations between a person’s interconnected social identities like race, class, gender, and age, and the degree to which individuals and groups experience advantages and disadvantages.
One example of this is “white privilege” where White people are given more opportunity and freedom than people of color because of racism. Same thing with being between a straight and queer person. Most members of LGBTQ are more likely to be oppressed than straight people.
Personally, in the Philippine context, being rich is the utmost privilege a person can have. This is where the backlash sort of started. Many netizens argue that because of Michael’s privilege (as he is a son of Manny Pacquiao), he can easily sail through the music industry because of connections and be successful about it without much hardwork.
It’s true that many of our local artists have to thread their way through success especially if they’re starting from scratch. From what I’ve heard and experienced from some of my artist friends, they have to go busking, go to gigs without being paid, just to get exposure and connections. I’m pretty sure this is not the only thing they go through.
It’s not really Michael’s fault that he’s privileged enough to skip some steps to achieve these things compared to others. The problem in this case is many people called out his privilege like he’s the sole reason why the whole system is to blame.
Funnily enough, he’s not the only one who was called out to check their privilege on the internet. Granted that some of those people are really just insensitive human beings who doesn’t care to flaunt their own privilege even in the middle of a pandemic, but there are also some people and personalities who are being called out on Twitter, who at the same time are doing their best to help other people.
This is why the “check your privilege” has become a problem. If a person has been called out for their privilege, there’s only two possible responses: it’s either they’ll have an enhanced awareness and appreciation for what they have or they’ll be offended and guilty because they would feel like they did not earn their privilege and it’s their fault that they’re born with the privilege.
So why does “check your privilege” backfire? Well, when someone calls out the unfair advantage of the privileged person over the less privileged, the person is usually being called out not about his advantages, but why he didn’t earn what he has achieved.
In the case of Michael Pacquiao, since he’s getting a lot of backlash either from his performance or privilege or other issues that god knows what, he needs to prove himself that he deserves that privilege. Do I think his performance is bad? Not really. Did he deserve the hate? Absolutely not and I’m not the type of person who’ll send hate to a kid. That’s why he better work hard, prove himself that he can, and help others who are also struggling in the music industry if he can.
So now, what do you do about the privilege that you have? My choice is to take advantage of it to do good. If you’re privileged enough to get an education, use it for something beneficial to you and your community. Basically, if you have any resources or some sort of power that others don’t have, use it to help others.
There are numerous research, discussion, research materials that you could read about the concept and complexities of privilege, much better if you connect them in the local context.. Personally, I could say that I’m generally privileged when it comes to class. But still being young and being a woman, I can still experience some disadvantages in society. I’m pretty sure you’ll be surprised what privileges you have when you think about it.