GUEST AUTHOR: Miles Dodge
Miles was very involved with Ncompass when we first started working in Haiti. He now contributes his time and talents to our Kidstarter program as a board member.
In my Air Force line of work, I address topics of illegal discrimination and sexual harassment, which to do effectively requires me to understand several different concepts including implicit bias, institutional racism and power & privilege to name just a few. While sitting in a training with ~100 Equal Opportunity specialists from across the Department of Defense regarding these topics, the lecturer read out the slide prompt “What is privilege?”. As I rolled my eyes, I thought to myself, “of course I know what it is” and instinctively felt guilty. However, as the lesson went on I realized my lack of understanding regarding this concept. How do you define it? Initially I recalled privilege in the sense of an advantage one is granted or earned such as the privilege to win an award for a successful performance (e.g. “it’s a privilege to be honored among so many amazing performers”), or access to borrow a vehicle while in high school for good grades as an example. These are all valid, but my paradigm shifted when I saw that privilege can be unearned as well. Like it or not, each person is born with some level of unearned privilege, or in other words advantage. As we finish out this 3-month quarter focused on education and Ncompass’s international focus on youth development (see previous post), let’s take a quick dive into where power & privilege is seen and how it connects to education.
As a white American male, you bet I have privilege (unearned since I was born a white male in America) in today’s modern society considering traditional societal norms, particularly considering the industries I have worked in (e.g. military, manufacturing, corporate business). This is where the instinctive guilt came from I mentioned earlier. Now am I ashamed to be a white American male? Absolutely not, and at the same time it is ignorant for me, or anyone with a high school level understanding of U.S. History to believe I was not born into advantageous circumstances. White American males however are not the only group with privilege because unearned privilege is seen in many different places. Being born into an influential family of a neighborhood anywhere in the world or being associated with a majority religious sect in a certain region (e.g. being raised in the Catholic minority in Myanmar during the Pope’s visit in Fall 2017 was a dangerous status to claim) can also be argued as providing unearned privilege. The question is not if privilege exists, but what can we do with it? Privilege in whatever form (earned, or unearned) gives an individual and/or group power. Power is simply a tool that can be used in a positive way, or negative way. Through a mixture of earned and unearned privilege I am in a position to exert some level of power, or influence on my surroundings and so are you! Investing in areas where there is a gap in educational opportunities and resources is a clear way of how we can choose to use our power & privilege in a positive way by supporting organizations like Ncompass.
Interaction Institute for Social Change
Ncompass focuses on promoting education in Haiti where individuals are often born into a cycle void of substantial privilege. To close the gap, Ncompass acts as one set of hands among many who are pushing to move the needle toward removing the lack of privilege as an unnecessary obstacle to a brighter future for Haiti and more specifically the community of Titanyen. Am I saying the educational landscape in America is perfect? I work in education and I can respond with a big “are you kidding me? of course it’s not perfect!”. However, it is important to pick your battles and aim at one target at a time. If this is a fight you want to join, great! If you feel called elsewhere, great; there are no shortage of good causes. Whatever you do, do not be lukewarm and sit on the sidelines. You have power & privilege, use it in a positive way!
Positive thought leads to positive action.
Ncompass is striving to become a leader in impacting and building up today’s youth for the Kingdom of God. We are committed to taking a bold, innovative and strategic business approach to inspire global action.