North Central College student Rachel West talks at TEDx event about "checking privilege"

Feb 27, 2015

North Central College student Rachel West ’16 spoke at a TEDx event about the phrase “check your privilege” that is used by college students and others to urge people to admit their advantages.

West was one of six student speakers selected to make three-minute presentations Feb. 13 at the inaugural TEDxNorthCentralCollege event. Topics were inspired by the theme “Changing the World for Good.” Her talk was titled, “Check Your Perspective, Not Your Privilege.”

“The first time I had to explain to my best friend what generic cereal was I was really frustrated,” West said. “But I realized it wasn’t my friend who needed to check his privilege, it was me who needed to check my perspective. I was about to use the phrase ‘check your privilege’ not as a well-meaning reminder for them to look at my viewpoint but as a weapon to cut them down.”

West is a choral music education major from Aurora, Ill. She said white males are not the only people who possess privilege.

“I am a black woman but I am also college-educated, a privilege I am very proud of,” she said.

West said everyone’s narrative is an important piece of our society, and it’s better to look forward toward common goals than to “look back at what we do not have.

“Privilege does not harm people. People who are privileged do not kill people,” she said. “People who have hatred in their hearts kill people. Privilege just puts people in a better casket. Before you tell someone to check their privilege, I implore you, please check your perspective.”

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers topics ranging from science to business to global issues. Independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.