On privilege and change.

I am privileged. Very privileged, and too often I lose sight of that and what it means.

As a healthy and able mid-thirties, white, upper-class, educated male, I am in a position where I don’t face discrimination in any way. I can go for a run in the park at night, breeze through airport security, meet someone for the first time and have the luxury of going about life undisturbed. And this is of course because everything I use and interact with is desinged with me in mind, usually by people very much like me. Physical things like chairs, cars, devices like my blackberry. Virtual things like websites, apps, content. Structural things like laws, regulations, customs and norms.

My partner, taught me long ago to recognize and acknowledge it. That it’s something that goes back centuries and that if we really want change we need to break through it, to not perpetuate it.

As the pace of change quickens, by force and by intent, being aware of this is ever more important. It’s not enough to design a product or program to serve a target market or user, we have to think about how it perpetuates that privilege. Can it even be designed to make privilege irrelevant? And think, what if we made privilege irrelevant one day? what would that say about what we’ve created, about what our society had become?

As someone of particular privilege I carry a lot of responsibility to do that. Not because it’s my fault for having the privilege, but simply because I have it. It is because of that privilege that I have the opportunity to do what I do, and so I will use it to do what I can to make it irrelevant.

And if you are reading this I ask you to do the same. You may not be a healthy, wealthy, white male, but my bet is that if you stop a second to look, you’ll find find just how privileged you are too. And that is a good start.

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