My adult life has been littered with the word privilege. When I was growing up, it was first discussed when my parents explained why my Sega Genesis was off limits as well as the living room television. Privileges can be held over a child, and if that child goes above and beyond acceptable behavior, then special privileges are afforded. Get a 100 percent on a social studies test, or a nice note from a teacher and there might be a reward in store. Maybe some ice cream, a new toy, or possibly a video game — when they were much less expensive. Parents dangle those alongside punishments to get their children to behave.
When no longer under parental rule, privilege is something different. After a certain point, a child can’t be granted anything by those who embraced the responsibility to look after them but help. At 26, why would people care if their guardians gave them a new Playstation if their job isn’t paying enough to afford rent and food? The best the guardians can do is be a cosigner for a student loan, or maybe even provide rent money. That, however, is still a privilege. People whose background includes adults who are responsible and/or have enough money or credit to help a child all the way through adulthood have an advantage.
The world is a difficult place that no one asked to deal with. One random day, a day you don’t even remember, you are pulled out of a female’s womb, with no ability to acknowledge that you’re a living being. Then, if you’re lucky, someone who knows that you were coming cares about you. That’s a privilege. Those who don’t have that are significantly less fortunate, but still may have their own privileges.
Maybe a child was born into the ruling class of a thriving empire, or maybe even into a society that would stage a revolution that no one could predict would be successful. That’s simply how life works which makes it so frustrating that so many humans refuse to acknowledge privilege in today’s society.
John Amaechi is one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever heard speak. Amaechi is 6-foot-9, went to good schools in England, and was genetically provided the tools that would motivate him to work hard enough to become an NBA player who could contribute. His education also helped the intellectual curiosity that would result in him becoming a marriage family therapist (MFT) and also one of the most eloquent speakers on the human condition.
He speaks amazingly on the topic of privilege. Anyone can have it. He’s privileged by being a huge professional athlete, and also intellectually curious enough to want to define his life more by how he thinks than how many contracts he could receive in the NBA. Amaechi, however, is still large, Black, and also gay, and must deal with the lack of privilege that comes with being that person, as well as all of the advantages that he also has.
While I understand privilege, his explanation of it on BBC Bitesize — “grownups trying out best to help school-aged kids” — Amaechi explained the concept by describing him being able-bodied and the challenges his wheelchair-bound friends face.
“Some of these ways are simply thoughtless, but some of them are just the way we live,” Amaechi said. “Just the way we build infrastructure, just the way everything works that makes their life harder than mine.”
A Black gay man understands how much his life is less hard as a respected intellectual and athlete. With that knowledge of his own privilege, he spoke recently in Sports Illustrated about why there aren’t more gay athletes out in professional sports.
“You want the gay people to come out? Change the assholes around them, and not just the teammates, because they mostly don’t care — but equipment managers and weight coaches and administrators and team owners, who we all know are a progressive group, and the overarching organizations, one of which has just finished constructively dismissing an athlete for taking a knee. Yeah, that’s a safe place to come out.”
It can make a person wonder why Carl Nassib is not currently on an NFL roster.
He came out the summer before the 2021 season, and for much of his professional career has been a positive contributor on the defensive line. Pro Football Focus graded him as the Las Vegas Raiders’ fifth-best defensive player last season. The Raiders cut him shortly after their playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. It gave them some financial relief, along with getting rid of Nick Kwiatkoski after giving him $10 million-plus guaranteed in 2020.
Kwiatkoski signed a one-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons but Nassib still doesn’t have a new home. The first active gay NFL player, one year after he comes out, is currently not part of the league anymore.
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 defensive line depth, and Nassib could be brought in by a team looking for some extra push up front. Yet, training camp is a couple of weeks away, and Nassib doesn’t have a helmet to wear.
This is a lesson in privilege that can be presented through a white man. A solid NFL player’s career may be finished because he wanted to be true to himself while playing. Even more, per a New York Times investigation, a player who is worse than Nassib has been could still end up on an NFL roster after being accused of violence against a woman. He’s 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 riled up, and it’s a major reason why the world is currently in such a volatile state. Everyone has a difficult life. Being alive is not easy, and again, a problem that no one asked to deal with. That being said, people all have different disadvantages that make life harder. Some people struggle in school growing up while others can coast through with little to no effort. Some people are great at sports instantly, while others have to work just to be average. Some people are born into a wealthy family and will never have to worry about financial security, while some simply come from a stable one, and some come from a poor and unstable one. Then there are people who literally do not have any family that they know.
There are also some people who simply aren’t what is considered a standard human being. They may be a minority, a female, have a sexual orientation different from the majority, or even different gender identity. That is going to have an effect on how the world responds to them. Carl Nassib is an impressively athletic white man. He is a very privileged person. He is also gay and at the moment finds himself not on an NFL roster.
His being gay may not be the reason, but it can be objectively said that it’s not helping.