What is Water Privilege?
“Privilege is invisible to those that possess it.” - Jeff Raikes, former CEO of the Gates Foundation
Privilege is such a hot button these days.
Conversations about privilege can cause frustration, create online arguments, and strain personal/professional relationships.
It’s even more intense when you place certain descriptors in front of the word privilege.
Especially the word “White”.
But in conversations I’ve had all over the country in boardrooms, classrooms, churches, and auditoriums, I’ve become convinced that most of us just don’t understand it.
So instead of using the phrase “White Privilege”, let’s reframe the conversation and look at this another way.
I’ll start by saying that if you are reading this, you most likely have “Water Privilege”.
You are probably saying to yourself, “Water Privilege, what are you talking about?”
Whether you are in your office, car, house, coffee shop, or somewhere else I would guess that you have easy access to water.
That could be a glass of water, a jug or water bottle, or even the water it took to make the cup of coffee you are drinking.
You probably didn’t think about water scarcity when you took a shower this morning, brushed your teeth, or flushed the toilet.
Not today, not yesterday, not ever.
You just assumed water would be there and free of toxins.
Safe and ready to meet your needs.
But if you were in one of the many water challenged 3rd world countries on the planet, that bottle of clean water sitting on your desk might just be the most valuable thing that you possessed.
There is zero chance you would take that water bottle for granted.
You would guard it, protect it, and make sure you didn’t waste a single drop.
Now for those of us that Water Privileged, we never demanded it, took it, or threatened anyone to get it.
We didn’t create it, invent it, or envision it.
We didn’t ask for it, didn’t expect it, and didn’t even consider it.
We just received it as a part of the location in which we were born.
Right zip code = Water Privileged
To say we have Water Privilege doesn’t mean we haven’t suffered, struggled, or endured significant hardships.
It doesn’t mean that life was perfect, or that things weren’t/aren’t difficult.
It isn’t a personal attack or an individual indictment.
It is just a simple assessment of a system of inequity where some are advantaged and others are disadvantaged.
So rather than deny our privilege or attempt to divest ourselves of our privilege, let’s invest our privilege so we can better empower others.
That might mean buying and sending water to places like Flint, Michigan or advocating for those directly affected by the water crisis in that community.
It might mean donating a birthday to Charity Water to raise funds for wells and water filtration systems Internationally.
Whatever we can do, we can do something.
Whether our privilege is this, or it is that, we can make it work to help serve others that live without it.
So let’s stop denying.
So let’s stop deflecting.
Let’s acknowledge our privilege by doing something amazing with it.
It is through serving others that we can best build a more beautiful world.