Have you ever had a conversation in which the person you’re talking to says something that you aren’t comfortable with? Something that you’re offended by, or you feel could be offensive to someone else? I definitely have. And it’s really hard to blatantly call someone out on things like that. But if people don’t realize that what they’re saying is offensive or hurtful, we can never expect them to learn and grow. Right?

Well, I propose we start a trend.

We all want to help build inclusive communities that celebrate rather than stifle diversity. We all want respect from one another, and we have a right to expect it. But sometimes people, even those who don’t have a single malicious bone in their bodies, say things out of ignorance or misunderstanding that can be hurtful or offensive to one person or another. This is especially true when it comes to talking about minority groups and stereotypes.

Well, I’ve come up with a little tool that you can use when having discussions with people about diversity-related topics in a respectful but critical way. It’s called CYP.

CYP (pronounced like “sip”) stands for Check Your Privilege. When you say “CYP,” you’re asking a person – without the use of public humiliation or anger – to rethink the way that they say things. You’re requesting that the person ask themselves Could what I’ve said offended someone? You’re also asking them to think critically about the advantages they have in our society. These advantages (or privileges) can change the way people view the world around them. They can also change the way people view other people, especially those who are different. 

Here’s a good example:

A couple weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a friend from back home (who is a white, heterosexual, cisgender male). We were talking about being queer in a predominantly heterosexual, cisgender world. He said, “I’ve never seen any LGBTQ people treated differently just because they were gay. That doesn’t really happen around here.”

Enter the CYP. Note that this actually took place before I came up with the acronym.

I explained to him that just because he, a white, straight cisgender man, doesn’t see discrimination happening doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. Being unaware of something doesn’t make it any less real. I explained that a big reason he doesn’t see discrimination against LGBTQ individuals is because of his privilege as a white, straight cisgender man. We live in a society where he is unfairly given an advantage over minorities, because of his majority “status” (for lack of a better word). And he doesn’t see how privileged he is because he has never been required to look.

As a minority, I am forced every day to see just how disadvantaged I am. This is something that my white friends never truly experience.

I see it in the way media portrays women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community.
I see it in how my family treated differently by cashiers at stores because my mother’s accent makes her questions sound different from those of a white woman.
I see it in how people ask me if my sister is my daughter when they wouldn’t dare assume the same about a young white girl.
I see it in how police watch me a little more closely than my white counterparts.
I see it in how many times TSA has asked to search my bag instead of anybody else’s.
I see it in my family’s history.
In how my father’s family lived constantly straddling the poverty line because Latinos in the 40s and 50s were never afforded the same opportunities as their white counterparts, and as a result had to work twice as hard for half the gain.
In how my mother immigrated to the U.S. from a developing country, seeking a better life, but not being met with the kindness and opportunity promised to her by the Land of the Free.
I see it in the looks that I get when I tell people that I’m bisexual.
I see it in the way people ask me where I’m from, as if I could never be American.

These are just some of the things that a member of the minority faces on a daily basis. But if you’re a member of the majority, you don’t see this. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aware of it.

That’s where CYP comes in. It can be as simple as writing it on a note or whispering it in someone’s ear. CYP is a way of holding a mirror up to the world and getting people to think critically about themselves and the difference between their perspective and reality. All perspectives are skewed by experiences. But that’s no excuse for ignorance.

We can eliminate ignorance. Slowly, but surely. One CYP at a time.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: