My adult life has been littered with the word privilege. It was first discussed growing up when my parents explained why my Sega Genesis was as taboo as the living room TV. Privileges can be exercised over a child, and when that child goes beyond acceptable behavior, special privileges are granted. Get 100 percent on a social studies test or a nice grade from a teacher, and maybe a reward awaits you. Maybe some ice cream, a new toy, or possibly a video game – if they were a lot cheaper. Parents dangle these alongside punishments to get their kids to behave.
When one is no longer under parental rule, privilege is something else. At a certain point, a child can get nothing but help from those who have taken on the responsibility of caring for them. Why should people care at 26 when their guardians give them a new Playstation when their job doesn’t pay enough to afford rent and food? The best thing the guardian can do is be a co-signer for a student loan or maybe even provide rent money. But that’s still a privilege. People from adult backgrounds who are responsible and/or have enough money or credit to help a child into adulthood have an advantage.
The world is a difficult place that no one asked for. On a random day, a day you can’t even remember, you are pulled from a woman’s womb with no ability to recognize that you are a living being. Then, if you’re lucky, someone will take care of you who knows you’re coming. That’s a privilege. Those who don’t have that are significantly less fortunate, but can still have their own privileges.
Perhaps a child was born into the ruling class of a thriving empire, or perhaps even into a society that would stage a revolution that no one could have foreseen would succeed. That’s just how life works, which is what makes it so frustrating that so many people refuse to acknowledge privilege in today’s society.
John Amaechi is one of the smartest people I’ve ever heard speak. Amaechi is 6ft 9 tall, attended good schools in England and was genetically equipped with the tools that would motivate him to work hard enough to become an NBA player with something to contribute. His training also aided the intellectual curiosity that would lead him to become a Marriage Family Therapist (MFT) and also one of the most eloquent speakers on the human condition.
He speaks amazingly on the subject of privilege. Anyone can have it. Privileged to be a great professional athlete, he’s also intellectually curious enough to want to define his life more in terms of how he thinks than how many contracts he might get in the NBA. However, Amaechi is still tall, black, and also gay, and has to deal with the lack of privilege that comes with being that person and all the perks that come with it too.
While I understand privilege, its explanation of it on BBC Bitesize – “Adults try best to help school-age children” – Amaechi explained the concept, describing that he is able-bodied and the challenges his wheelchair-bound friends face.
“Some of these ways are just mindless, but some of them are just the way we live,” Amaechi said. “The way we build infrastructure, the way everything works, makes their life harder than mine.”
A black gay man understands how much less harsh his life is as a respected intellectual and athlete. With this knowledge of his own privilege, He recently spoke in Sports Illustrated about why there aren’t more gay athletes in professional sports.
“You want the gays to come out? Change the assholes around them, and not just the teammates because most of the time they don’t care – but gear managers and weight coaches and admins and team owners, who we all know are a progressive group, and the parent organizations, one of which just constructively fired an athlete for taking a knee. Yes, This is a safe place to come out.”
It can make a person wonder why Karl Nassib is not currently on an NFL roster.
He came out in the summer ahead of the 2021 season and has been a positive defensive line contributor for much of his pro career. Pro Football Focus ranked him as a Las Vegas Raiders player fifth best Defensive Player of the Last Season. The Raiders cut him shortly after their playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. It gave them some financial relief, along with the elimination of Nick Kwiatkoski after he guaranteed him more than $10 million in 2020.
Kwiatkoski signed a one-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons, but Nassib still doesn’t have a new home. The first active gay NFL player is currently out of the league a year after coming out.
Nassib is good but not great. Productive but not dominant. His overall PFF rating isn’t the best, but it’s respectable. NFL teams are always looking for depth on the defensive line, and Nassib could be used by a team looking for an extra boost up front. But training camp is still a few weeks away and Nassib doesn’t have a helmet to wear.
This is a lesson in privilege that can be presented by a white man. A solid NFL player’s career may have ended because he wanted to stay true to himself in the game. Additionally, according to a New York Times investigation, a player worse than Nassib could still end up on an NFL roster after being accused force against a woman. He is also under 30 years old. Nassib was the player brave enough to come out while under contract with an NFL team. Now he has no contract.
The word privilege gets people excited, and it’s a major reason the world is in such a volatile state right now. Everyone has a difficult life. Being alive is not easy and again a problem no one asked to solve. That being said, all people have different disadvantages that make life harder. Some people struggle in school while growing up, while others get by with little to no effort. Some people are great at sports right away, while others just have to work to be average. Some people are born into a wealthy family and never have to worry about financial security, while others simply come from a stable family and some from a poor and unstable family. Then there are people who literally have no family they know.
There are also some people who just aren’t what is considered a normal person. They may be a minority, female, have a different sexual orientation than the majority, or even a different gender identity. That will affect how the world reacts to them. Carl Nassib is an impressively athletic white male. He’s a very privileged person. He’s also gay and doesn’t find himself on an NFL roster at the moment.
Being gay may not be the reason, but it can be said objectively that it doesn’t help.