A short comic gives the simplest, most perfect explanation of privilege I've ever seen.

This article originally appeared on 01.20.16


Privilege can be a hard thing to talk about.

Oftentimes, when it's implied or stated that someone is "privileged," they can feel defensive or upset. They may have worked very hard for what they have accomplished and they may have overcome many obstacles to accomplish it. And the word "privilege" can make a person feel as though that work is being diminished.

The key point about privilege, though, is that it doesn't mean that a person was raised by wealthy parents, had everything handed to them, and didn't have to do much other than show up.


Privilege means that some of us have advantages over others for any number of reasons we don't control — like who we are, where we come from, the color of our skin, or certain things that have happened in our lives.

Even when things haven't come easy for some people, they can still have privileges that others don't have.

Illustrator Toby Morris did some thinking about the concept of inequality and privilege, and he found one major problem.

He did a lot of research to learn about it, but as he started to really understand privilege, he found that a lot of the information about privilege felt very academic and technical. He felt it was important to "talk about this heavy stuff in a really simple and clear way," Morris explained to me in an email interview.

That's what led him to create and illustrate this incredible comic on privilege for the The Wireless.

He did an amazing job. Check it out:

This comic is property of The Wireless, where it originally appeared. It's shared here with permission.

This is a great way to explain privilege to someone who's having a hard time understanding — or someone who doesn't want to recognize it.

"Comics are very human and accessible — they're non-threatening and quite inviting to a reader," Morris said. "It's a lot less daunting than picking up a giant book or trying to decipher a really long or really dense article."

True story.

Make no mistake: Morris isn't taking away from hard work in his comic.

"I'm not trying to say I'm against that idea that if we work hard, we succeed," he said. "I would like to think that is true, for the most part, but I just think people often forget or don't realise that our starting points, or our paths to success, aren't all even. Some people have to overcome more obstacles in the path to succeeding than others."

He was also quick to point out that this isn't about anyone needing to feel bad or guilty for the privileges that they have, but rather it's about honesty and understanding — because maybe that's what could lead us to a better place.

"Acknowledging the issue is one step towards addressing it hopefully," he said.

Ultimately, success — or lack thereof — can be about hard work and other factors, some of which are beyond our control.

A lot of people have been able to relate to this comic — both sides of it — and have reached out to Morris to share.

"Personally, I've grown up somewhere in the middle," he said. Because his dad was in the army, Morris moved around a lot as a kid. "I experienced a lot of different neighbourhoods and schools and friendship groups — some well off, some not so much — and that experience lead me to this belief that ultimately people are all pretty similar wherever you go, we just don't all have the same chances in life."

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Yamiche Alcindor/Twitter, U.S. Department of State

It takes a lot to push a career diplomat to quit their job. A diplomat's specialty, after all, is diplomacy—managing relationships between people and governments, usually with negotiation and compromise.

So when the U.S. special envoy to Haiti, whose "diplomatic experience and demonstrated interagency leadership have been honed directing several of the United States government's largest overseas programs in some of the world's most challenging, high-threat environments," decides to resign effective immediately, it means something.

Daniel Foote, who was appointed special envoy to Haiti in July of this year, explained his decision to quit in a strongly-worded letter to Secretary of State Blinken. His resignation comes in the wake of a wave of Haitian migrants arriving at the southern U.S. border and widespread reports of harsh treatment and deportations.

"I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life," he wrote. "Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own."

Foote went on to describe the dire conditions in Haiti:

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