It can be expressed as special trust, higher status, or class entitlement. Think of it like a 'promotion' at work (sometimes these 'promotions' are the result of nepotism, not merit).
My family emigrated to the United States in the early 70's. I was born in one of the most privileged countries in the world. I have never experienced starvation, sickness, or poverty like my counterparts in developing countries such as India. While I wouldn't consider our family's social status as wealthy here in the US, we were doing relatively well in the world.
Our family took a trip to India when I was 5 years old. We stayed for a month. In that time I got to experience life in Bombay (Mumbai today). My 3 yr old brother and I played with the children we met outside my grandmother's cottage. We ate food from the street carts, attended school, and ran around the neighborhood doing the stuff kids do.
On my international adventure I came across beggars up close for the first time in my impressionable life. Some were old with missing limbs, neglected teeth, and smelled very bad. They were the picture of sadness and despair. I even saw beggar children my own age. They too were filthy, and sometimes maimed. Some of them carried their baby siblings with them while they begged (a haunting sight indeed). I saw a child dig through the trash for a newspaper soaked with the grease and food particulate from a street snack and proceed to eat the translucent paper out of starvation (my father told me that many of them go blind from the lead print they consume).
This was reality for many people in the world. My parents wanted my brothers and I to know the 'grim' as well as the 'beautiful'. As children are born truly innocent and have a difficult time processing the harsh realities that some face, I compartmentalized this lesson for study in the future. (Sometimes I would dream of begging on the streets with my little brother and would wake up terrified).
Back in America, it was easy to shrug off the disturbing reality I saw firsthand in India. I adjusted quickly to school work, recess, American food, and sleeping in a comfortable bunk bed with my brother safely below.
Growing up in a predominantly white culture especially when one doesn't belong to one of the significant minority populations can be difficult. I was an average student, a mediocre athlete, and had a penchant for class clowning. My strategy was to befriend everyone and avoid being classified as "a loser" (as the kids say). Like most of my Indian-American peers across the US, I was not "cool". I didn't fit in any of the categories and thus took my place with the "unclassifieds" which happened to occupy one of the lower rungs on the social ladder.
Children instinctively rate and classify their peers into categories especially throughout puberty and on through high school. With the development of secondary sex characteristics comes adolescent mating behavior.
Young men and women start to behave or campaign according to their biological predilections. School becomes a mating "playground" under the auspices of higher education. Attractiveness and desirability becomes the new standard of merit and popularity. In an environment where race, religion, orientation, and wealth are not in equal distribution and are subject to the "high school classification model" many adolescents find themselves excluded.
It was not until University that I discovered people of similar origin to myself. It was a breath of fresh air, one that I thought would never come. For once in my life, I belonged. I had an identity. I discovered that I was not a reject, but felt rather included. This experience served to give me perspective. While still considered a minority, I belonged to a group instead of socializing with others on my own. I was growing tired of being representative of all Indian people to my white friends (my family originates from a Portuguese Colony in Goa, the smallest state in India where we were raised Catholic for generations).
After college I entered the work force only to discover that I was back in an environment similar to what I left in high school. People treat one another according to attractiveness, social status, wealth, and overall usefulness.
For years I labored under the notion that my experience in college wasn't an ephemeral dream, but rather something that I could somehow recapture. With out the structure of attending a regimented and diverse environment such as graduate school, prospects of finding companionship and a sense of belonging grew slim.
I realized that I had a choice. I could fight nature and the environment by not accepting reality or embrace the situation and be thankful for the experience and perspective gained from School.
Since college, I've had the privilege to travel to other countries in Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe. I've discovered that the world is smaller than I once thought. I learned that we are all more similar than we are different. Unfortunately, I also learned that poverty, sickness, hunger, and exclusion affect more than those I saw in India as a boy (in fact it was exactly the same but with slightly different colored skin).
We here in America are truly blessed and privileged to enjoy the gifts of freedom we have; privileges that overwhelm and lure us into attitudes of entitlement. We often waste food that could feed the starving (as my parents used to remind me). We often spend our attention and money on frivolous expenses that serve our egos instead of our character. We waste precious time fighting instead of working towards mutual solutions. We are spoiled by excess. Our greed and lust for 'more' hinders our appreciation for what we have now. We are spoiled because we can afford to discriminate against our brothers and sisters without a hint of empathy or concern. We have more than we need and less of what we want which leaves us unhappy.
In order to prevent this descent into unhappiness, it becomes necessary to appreciate our gifts. We have the choice to continue ignoring the growing reality of poverty, sickness, hunger, and discrimination; or seek to understand the situation, be truly grateful for what we have, and make meaningful changes in our lives to honor and respect the lives of those not fortunate enough to have the gift of 'privilege'.