Confronting Privilege:
A Summary and Analysis of Karen Pittelman's Classified

Aimed at an audience between 15-35, the 'young people' to whom 'Classified: How to Stop Hiding Your Privilege and Use it for Social Change' is addressed should be ready to have their eyes opened to previously hidden realities associated with privilege. There is no soft-stepping around difficult issues in this book! The central thesis of this publication is that recognizing the power of privilege is a prerequisite for creating social change- especially for young people who have experienced privilege of any kind.

While it is common for young people from privilege to be interested in social change, only a few brave individuals will stand up and recognize the privileges that might have given them the 'upper hand' in life. This book is aimed towards opening the lines of communication: helping privileged youth be more honest with themselves about where they come from and to use the benefits they have received as tools in creating change.

Filled with cartoon images, exercises, testimonials and accessible text, the piece addresses some of the hidden advantages experienced by individuals with privilege.

In a cartoon strip about the taboo of discussing money, the character 'Miss Manners' cries out "There must not be open conversations about wealth! Think of the chaos! The Impropriety!" (Pittleman,12). The loose style and the humor with which this topic is broached, the format was carefully considered. In the introduction, Karen Pittleman, author and program coordinator of Resource Generation, LINK explains the reasoning behind the format. She writes, "We've learned that understanding privilege has to happen at the level of emotions or it never really happens at all" (Pittleman, xi). Defining social change as 'belief in a more just distribution of resources' one central premise of this piece is that 'just distribution' must be work for from those with privilege and those without, in cooperation, in order for changes to come about.

Addressing the emotional stresses of involvement in social justice for individuals with privilege, a testimonial from a program participant provides personal insights. In the first few pages of the book we find the following confession from 'Tracy':

It felt like a contradiction when I was doing that work in a shelter and I had all this money and access and there were people struggling to find enough money to pay rent. Its like I was being struck in the face with the reality of how much privilege I have. Sometimes it feels like I'm going to combust.

This book hopes to address the inner conflict experienced by young people who have financial advantages: helping them to let go of the shame of having wealth, and make real change!

Classified: How to Stop Hiding Your Privilege and Use it for Social Change
Karen Pittelman, Soft Skull Press. Brooklyn, NY: 2005.