A privilege is a type of immunity provided by the state or another authority to a certain population, either by birth or on a conditional basis. A right, on the other hand, is an inherent, irreversible entitlement that all citizens or all human beings have from the time they are born. Some examples of rights include the right to life, the right to freedom of expression and religion, and the right to vote.
A privileged person is one who enjoys a special right or protection. For example, women are considered privileged persons in some countries because they can avoid military service. The term "female privilege" is used when discussing how women in general do not serve in the military. There is also male privilege which allows men to avoid serving in the armed forces too. Black people were once considered privileged persons until they were not anymore. In Europe before the 19th century, Jews were given special privileges over Christians until they weren't anymore. Native Americans were granted many privileges by the government until they weren't anymore.
The term "white privilege" was coined by American academic and activist Dr. Cornel West in 1994. He defined it as "the unearned assets that accrue to the benefit of the white community at the expense of minority communities." Mr. West went on to say that "when you talk about white privilege, you're talking about structures within our society that operate to the advantage of whites at the expense of others."
A privilege is conditional and awarded only after birth in modern democratic governments. Although some privileges may be rights for others, such as the right to refuse medical treatment, most privileges are not considered rights by most people or government agencies.
There are two types of rights: natural rights and civil rights. Natural rights are innate qualities of being human. For example, no one can justly deny you the right to life because you are not responsible for your actions (at least in a moral sense). Civil rights are those granted to you by society. You might not have a right to live if there is no one around to care for you, but many countries provide care through their health systems. Criminal rights are usually considered natural rights while political rights are generally regarded as civil rights.
Natural rights are common to all humans whereas civil rights can be denied to certain individuals or classes of people. For example, no one has a right to enslave another person, but slavery was once accepted as a valid institution until it was abolished by law. Modern democracies accept sexual freedom as a natural right whereas they grant civil rights to women who want to vote or work outside the home.
Sexual freedom is also referred to as reproductive freedom.
So, what exactly is privileging? "Privilege is defined as the benefits and advantages enjoyed by a group in authority, or a majority, as a result of persecution and suppression of minority groups." * "Furthermore, privilege is, according to the social justice concept, the advantages individuals have that they don't think about because they don't think about them very often." * "Social justice advocates believe that all people are entitled to equal rights regardless of their race, gender, religion, class, sexual orientation, or any other factor that distinguishes one person from another."
* From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Licensed under CC-BY-SA.