SNL's Sasheer Zamata Deftly and Hilariously Breaks Down the Idea of Privilege
In a video for the ACLU, Sasheer Zamata finds herself in conversation with a white male friend, talking about the idea of privilege. “Privilege” is a word, I know, that a lot of people have a strong kneejerk reaction to, as if it’s an insult, or an implication that those who have it can’t possibly have any real problems. In reality, all it is is a set of circumstances you can’t control that give you a leg up, a playing field with sturdier turf. And that’s what Zamata wants her friend to realize. In a quick 3 minutes, Zamata shows us a series of frustrations that come with being a woman (and beyond that, a woman of color) in our daily lives: a lack of representation in entertainment (both onscreen and behind the scenes), catcalling, harassment, a general feeling that others are more celebrated for their empathy than you are for your experiences. The most frustrating thing, though, is how often these experiences go unnoticed by those who have a certain degree of privilege. It’s easy to tell people they’ll succeed if they work hard enough and have confidence when you’ve never had coworkers and bosses and (even for no apparent reason but frequently) opinionated strangers who just innately have less respect for you because of your gender, your race, or whatever else sets you apart in their eyes.
Now, this is meant to be a parody video, with women’s daily experiences being compacted into one quick burst, and in doing that, the friend— who obliviously mansplains the ways of the world throughout— comes off as well-meaning, but utterly clueless. Still, nothing that Zamata encounters in the video is extreme or abnormal for the course of a normal day. Now if everyone could just have their own personal Keyser Soze moment, maybe we’d all do a little better at recognizing our own privilege— not as something to feel guilty about or lash out over, but just as something to be aware of.