Privilege is a special right or advantage available only to a particular person or group of people. The term is commonly used in the context of social inequality, particularly in regard to social class,race, age, sexual orientation, gender, and disability. Two common examples would be having access to a higher education and housing. Privilege can also be emotional or psychological, regarding personal self-confidence and comfort, or having a sense of belonging or worth in society. It began as an academic concept, but has since become popular outside of academia.
Substantial analysis of privilege and specific social groups have been published and have included a variety of perspectives. Some commentators have addressed limitations in the term, such as its inability to distinguish between concepts of "spared injustice" and "unjust enrichment", and its tendency to conflate disparate groups.
The concept of privilege dates back to 1903 when American sociologist and historianW. E. B. Du Bois published the essay The Souls of Black Folk, in which he wrote that although African Americans were observant about white Americans and conscious of racial discrimination, white Americans did not think much about African Americans, nor about the effects of racial discrimination. In 1935, Du Bois wrote about what he called the "wages of whiteness", which he described as including courtesy and deference, unimpeded admittance to all public functions, lenient treatment in court, and access to the best schools.