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    25 Moments People Realized They Had Privilege, And Were Shocked To Their Core

    "I watched a video where a mother was teaching her Black son to never walk around in a hoodie up, and not keep their hands in their pockets. It made me realize how privileged I am in my circumstances."

    Believe it or not, every single one of us benefits from some form of privilege, regardless of how we look or where we come from. It's a nuanced issue, but one well worth reading about and reflecting on.

    I knew I could rely on the BuzzFeed Community to get real for a minute. I asked them to share any shocking moments when "they learned they had privilege," and their responses were truly eye-opening, important, and in many cases, devastating.

    1. "I live in the country's capital, and we live fine (nothing spectacular), but I was always envious of famous cities like New York, Paris, etc... But then I met people from other parts of my country during college, they were wide-eyed about my city. I couldn't understand, it's not that great. A friend explained to me that she had been waiting to see movies in theatres all her life, and then it hit me — only four cities in my country had theatres, and I was lucky enough, not only to see regular movies, but also see films festivals, go to the ballet, or a concert of my favorite artists. They never used traffic lights, ate at fast food restaurants, and many other things I took for granted all my life. They had to wait for 19 years to experience these things."


    a group of students looking at something in front of them

    2. "North Carolina — early '90s. I was about six years old. My family is white, and our next-door neighbors were Black. My little brother played with their son a lot. One day, both boys came down with the terrible flu. The same virus. Both went down fast, and both moms took their sons to the ER. My brother was seen right away. Our neighbor was told to take her son home and call their doctor in the morning. There was absolutely nothing different between the two mothers and sons, except color — they even lived on the same street. The boys had the same illness. Jonathan, our neighbor's son, died that night at home while my brother was stabilized in the hospital."


    3. "I grew up super poor, so I never thought of myself as privileged because how could I when sometimes we didn't have anything, including food? Fast forward to my early twenties, and I get pulled over because I'm driving a car that matches the description of a getaway car from a nearby robbery. The cop didn't pull a gun on me, ask me any questions, or check my ID when I said I was going home and lived right down the street I got pulled over on. When they returned to their car, it hit me that they fully trusted I didn't do it because I was a white woman. (The robber had all their skin covered, so it shouldn't have ruled me out.) And even if I wasn't who did it, I could have been involved, but the cop didn't consider it. Since that night, it has been my mission to use my privilege for those that don't have any."


    a white woman and a Black woman having dinner together

    4. "I went to a wealthy, academically rigorous college with the majority of the students coming from families in the 1%. I came from a low-income family and struggled for the first year, feeling inadequate and like I didn’t fit in. I was constantly measuring myself against other people’s money and wealthy upbringing. I started making friends from low-income and/or first-generation backgrounds and gained a wealth of knowledge through their experiences and perspectives. I realized that as legitimate as my feeling of not always fitting in or being able to afford the lives my peers led was, I had grown up with immense privilege through my white background, suburban upbringing, private education, and supportive, stable family."

    "These privileges allowed me to fit in and succeed in a competitive environment. They even extended into the workplace, where I can connect with and feel comfortable with most of my colleagues. It took me a while to recognize that, but I am forever grateful for friends who shared themselves with me and gently helped me see from a different point of view."


    closeup of students drinking coffee

    5. "My cousin/best friend/nemesis and I were born within a month of each other and share the same name, and he's deaf, and I am not. We were taught BSL since birth and were together almost daily. He was (well, okay, still is) the brain, and I was the muscle. We were around six when we were in the newsagent's buying sweets. My cousin noticed I was eavesdropping on two adults chatting nearby and asked what they were saying. I told him I'd tell him later. He threw his sweets back on a shelf and walked out of the newsagents. When I reached his side in the street, he was so angry that he pushed me away and told me to f off. That was when I learned he was tired of my controlling his access to what I was hearing. I've always been lazy, so I didn't even realize until then how much my privilege was affecting and hurting him. I still feel shit about it, but I learned enough to avoid saying I'll tell you later to him or anyone who has asked since."


    group of students outside

    6. "I met a girl in college that told my group of friends she would be embarrassed to show us the apartment where she and her mom lived because it was nothing compared to mine and my friend's houses. I live in a [developing nation], and I've always been aware that I'm a bit more privileged than most of the population, but nothing hit me as hard as a girl I go to college with saying she was embarrassed compared to my friends and me."


    closeup of teens

    7. "I remember not long ago, I watched a video where a mother was teaching her Black son to never walk around in a hoodie up, and not keep their hands in their pockets. It made me realize how privileged I am in my circumstances. It also broke my heart for that mother and all the mothers that live in constant fear like that. It’s not fair that just because of the color of their skin, they have a real reason to worry."


    protesters gathered

    8. "For immigration reform, I used to think, 'Well, these people should come in the 'right way.' I thought the people already here could just get 'legal.' Then I met my wife, and she had immigration issues. I learned that for most, there isn't a "right" way and how backlogged/broken the immigration system is. I was privileged to have been born in the US and not struggle with going to school, trying to work, and trying to live without papers."


    9. "I was a freshman in college and got partnered up with some classmates for a project. One of the guys in my group started talking about how he sold drugs when he was 10 or 11 to pay for field trips for school. I started laughing because I assumed he was joking, but he was dead serious. I viewed my entire upbringing differently after that."


    students sitting around a table

    10. "Maybe not the first time, but one instance sticks out in my mind. Years ago, I, a white guy, was driving to Pride Fest with a Black friend. I got pulled over for speeding. While the cop was walking up to my car, I unbuckled my seat belt, reached into my back pocket for my license, and opened and reached into the glove compartment for my registration. I thought nothing of it, but afterward, he told me he would never have done any of those things without asking for permission. It’s not like I didn’t know racism was still a major issue or that Black people were disproportionately harmed by the police, but realizing that I had no fear other than getting a ticket, while others in my situation would be very cautious or even afraid, was very sobering (and upsetting)."


    11. "I was ten and Chicago had just come out on DVD. I was obsessed with musicals, so my mom let me watch it with her despite it being PG-13. I loved the movie but couldn’t get past the 'not guilty' woman being hanged. Until watching this, I didn’t know people were hanged as punishment for crimes. I couldn’t wait to run down the street to my BFF's house and tell her about it. She was a year younger than me, so I didn’t think she would know about this new morbid thing I had just discovered. Welp, she’s half Black and just looked at me and then told me all about lynchings and that many Black people were hung just for being Black. Not even as a punishment for a crime. My mind was ripped wide open. I had lived ten whole years not even knowing this cruelty existed, and she was like, yeah, dude, my ancestors were hung from trees by white people all the time."


    students holding notebooks sitting on sofa

    12. "I knew this guy once that I met while traveling. Since we were both solo travelers, we became good friends and even traveled through part of Italy together. We lived near each other back in the US, so we kept in touch, meeting up for dinner and drinks a couple of times. Then one day, I saw on the news that he murdered a Black guy at a bus stop for 'being in his way'… I had NO idea this guy was so incredibly racist. After seeing his heinous crime, I dug into his socials and uncovered some horrible cryptic racism. To me, he seemed like a nice and genuine guy. I never denied the fact I have certain privileges because I’m white, but realizing how clueless I was as to how horrible of a person he was, my white privileged slapped me in the face. I was completely horrified. I’m much more selective and careful about the people I associate with now."

    "Racism is a deal breaker for me and I wish I had paid attention and been more careful about trusting this horrible person. I feel sick thinking about how highly I thought of him. May he rot in prison until he dies!"


    13. "Growing up, most of my friends were Hispanic, and I was usually the only white girl. It was always understood that anything illegal would automatically go into my purse if we got in trouble or pulled over. I had never been arrested (still haven't!), and we all knew I had the 'innocent white girl get out of jail free card.' Luckily, we never had to do that. It wasn't until well into my 30s that I recognized it was an insane level of white privilege. I had always thought it was just the way things were. 🤦‍♀️"


    students outside a building

    14. "When I went to college for the first time I met friends who had a different upbringing than my friends and I did in our upper-middle class community. I was surprised when I heard that not all of my peers took music lessons, went to summer camps, or went on family vacations every year. I was heartbroken when I learned that not all my college friends grew up in stable, supportive home lives. Many came from broken homes, and that was something I’d never imagined. To this day, I consider having loving, supportive, and kind parents to be one of the biggest privileges."


    students working at a table

    15. "I’m a white woman with chronic illness and have finally accepted, after many years, that I am disabled. As I learn more about my community, I have understood my privilege deeper. It’s not that someone else may have a more 'serious' disability than me, but that even when things are hard, I know that I will never truly be in a situation where I have to choose medical care (including the cost of my medication) over the ability to house, clothe, or feed myself because of the financial privilege I come from, and the privilege of having parents who will always be able to help me when I need it. My family is by no means rich, but if I need help covering a medical test, appointment, or procedure, my parents will always step in. That’s something not everyone in my community has."


    students gathered outside

    16. "I didn’t realize I grew up privileged until I met my partner. We both had hard-working immigrant parents, but our upbringing was the main difference. My parents worked their way up, creating a successful business, whereas my partner’s parents struggled to keep jobs (his dad was an alcoholic, and his mum worked around the clock trying to get income for both of them). My parents always wanted a better life for my sister and me, so they encouraged us to have a private education while they saved for both of our weddings, helped us buy our homes, and were able to give us everything we needed growing up. Meanwhile, my partner didn’t get the chance to finish university. He had to help his family pay for the mortgage on their house and couldn’t afford to save anything. I don’t take anything my parents did for me for granted, but being with my partner has made me realize that I grew up privileged."


    closeup of two people talking

    17. "My girlfriend is transgender. The only time we ever had issues regarding her identity was at my favorite place — near the water. My birthdays were always at the springs and I spent every summer at the beach. Every time it got hot, I practically lived near the water. However, my girlfriend hates the beach because she’s incredibly dysphoric in bathing suits and is worried about us having to monitor everyone for any signs of imminent violent behavior. The one time we went to the springs together, it was a nice trip, but you could see the looks on people’s faces trying to 'figure us (or maybe just her) out.' As a cis woman, I was mostly worried about being harassed sexually, but she and I both doubly needed to watch for sexual assault AND hate crimes now."

    "I never thought a relaxing vacation could be so stressful for a person. I miss the beach, but I don’t want to put my beautiful girlfriend in danger, especially when trans people are under much scrutiny. It’s just not fair."


    three women hanging out in a dorm room

    18. "Being born in this country means I have a citizenship that can't be taken away. Also, my parents earned enough money that I didn't have to drop out of school to help pay the bills. I could finish high school, unlike some of my relatives, who dropped out to support their families because they were poor."


    19. "I was working retail, and I hated working with this one particular boss because I didn't like how she spoke to me. If she ever spoke to me, it was short and exasperating. I know I'm frustrating to work with, but it's not my fault I'm neurodivergent. She also happened to be from India. My direct supervisor was a woman from somewhere in Eastern Europe, and one day I admitted to her my concerns about the other boss that I didn't like working with. My direct supervisor paused a moment and then took the time to explain how frustrating it can be to live and constantly work in your second, third, or fourth language. To my relief, she explained how the other boss was most likely overwhelmed with the language barrier and had to direct me on top of that in their second or third language. I'm forever grateful to that boss for that privilege check."


    closeup of two confused students

    20. "I had what I considered to be an amazing math teacher in middle school. Years later, a gym friend of mine, a person of color who attended the same middle school I did (just a few years after me), said he hated her. I asked why, and he said she tried to put him in basic math. I thought it was really strange because the guy is a math genius. He got a full-ride scholarship and has a tech job making six figures. I was shocked. I didn’t connect the dots until I heard from a few other people (students of mine, to be specific) that I realized she only treated Black students with darker complexions that way. It made me sick, and even though I am pretty aware of my privilege, it rocked me that I did not see that side of her. It also made me rethink all of my experiences. Had I been a darker-skinned person, I would not have had the positive experiences I did."


    Let's keep the conversation going! Do you have stories like these? If so, tell us about them in the comments below or via this 100% anonymous form.

    Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.