Recently, I wrote a short essay on privilege and programming. It was quite popular on /r/programming and generated hundreds of comments, both there and on this blog.

I was surprised and flattered to see the majority of the comments agreed with my post, however a few people brought up a concern which I’d like to address:

Why this is person trying to convince me that I should regretful for being able to use a computer at a young age just because others couldn’t?

This is a very common misconception about privilege.

Being privileged doesn’t stop you from being awesome. For example, one of my favorite films of all time is Lost in Translation. It was directed by Sophia Coppola, the daughter of the director of The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola. I don’t think it’s wrong to assume that, had she not been his daughter, there is very little chance that Lost in Translation would exist. Not only did her father fund it, but he raised her in the world of cinema, allowing her to absorb how it worked from a very early age. By the time she started directing movies, she had a huge head start.

Does being privileged mean that Sofia Coppola is somehow a worse director than if she had a different father? Of course not. Her work stands on its own.

I would never suggest that you shouldn’t take advantage of the opportunities you’ve been afforded. My parents worked very hard so that I could have the access to computers at a young age. It would have been rude to throw all that away.

Having access to a computer is just one way I was privileged. There are countless others: I wasn’t raised in poverty, or in a country riddled with disease or corruption. I am a white man and have never faced racism or sexual discrimination.

I don’t feel regret for who I am, I just recognize that not everyone has it so easy. Privilege is about being mindful of the fact that not all people have equal footing.

It also an important first step towards correcting injustices, for if you truly believe that everyone has the same opportunities as you, there is no reason to advocate for change.