Literacy, Power, and Privilege

Posted: November 27th, 2013



Literacy, Power, and Privilege






Literacy and the Distribution of Power and Privilege

 Literacy is defined as the ability to make and communicate sense from and by the use of various social context symbols. A literate individual has the ability to derive and convey meaning within different levels of developmental ability (World Conference on Education for All, 1990). Moreover, a literate individual is able to apply knowledge acquired in order to achieve the desired purpose or set objectives that need the application of language skills whether spoken or written. It is very easy for any literate individual to mediate between societal needs by significantly and easily changing meaning from one language to a different language using basic knowledge bases. Literacy according to studies is dynamic; it evolves and tends to reflect continual changes within the society inclusive of power and privileges. Privilege refers to granting special advantage, right or benefit to a particular person or a group of people. Power is the ability to act or accomplish a goal or set objectives.

Literacy is linked to power and privilege distribution becauaes it is through literacy that a person is able to acquire power and privilege in a society. In most cases, literate individuals are placed in great positions for making sound decisions, improving the quality of living standards, working in dignity, establishing full personal potentials and contributing in societal progression (Samant, 1996). Therefore, the society tends to distribute its powers and privileges to people with such qualities because they are able to lead and guide the society to further growth and development.

Literacy helps a person to acquire a full understanding of life and be in a position to solve daily life problems in a society (Pratto, & Penelope, 2001). Therefore, it is hard to gain power and privilege without being literate. For instance, the President Barrack Obama was able to gain power and the accorded privileges because of his ability to write, read and apply intrinsic knowledge and skills to the world and the society as required. Additionally, he has the ability to solve issues like war problems facing his people and improve the living standards of communities present in America to the best of his level by eliminating poverty. In India, literacy is associated with power and privilege by virtue of birth into a membership instituted within a biological group setting. This therefore indicates that the relation between literacy, power and privilege together with the outcomes of not having either continue to be a source of concern to those lacking the same.

Effects of Race, Class and Gender on Power

According to research, race, class and gender tend to shape power very largely. Race, class and gender are interpreted as interlocking categories of experiences that affect all areas of power hence they are responsible for structuring the experiences of those in power in the society. They have an overlapping and cumulative effect on their impacts regarding various life experiences noted by people in power. Race, class and gender may accord negative effects on individuals targeting power due to discrimination instances on the person’s race, gender or societal position /class. A good example where such perceptions may be noted in recruitment or hiring instances (Dugan, 2004).

For instance, it was hard for African Americans to get employment opportunities in higher sectors because of skin color in terms of race. Moreover, men are favored more than women are in terms of employment especially in technical occupations whereas people with high social or financial status tend to have higher privileges than poor people have. Therefore, a person in power is supposed to ensure that such issues are eliminated in order to improve the general livelihood within the society, ensure equality among all genders and promote unity between different cultures despite differences noted in race or religious backgrounds.

Minorities, Poor People, Women and Equal Distribution of Power and Privileges

Inequality is an outcome of two factors namely political imbalance and prejudice directed on a person. The aforementioned groups of people have not received an equal distribution of power and privilege because of the escalating discrimination and prejudice rates present in most communities. This has thus led to structural differences in the access, treatment, and gross social, political, and economical inequities (Dallmayer, 2002). For instance, the minorities are discriminated on basis of issues such as race thus being denied the chance to have power over others. Women are denied the opportunity to hold power in various institutions because they are perceived as weak individuals whose only need is to take care of children and their husbands. The poor are discriminated against because they are not able to acquire superior education in for the elimination of illiteracy.




Dallmayer, R. (2002). Globalization and Inequality: A Plea for Global Justice. International Studies Review, 4(2), 137-156.

Dugan, M. (2004). Power inequalities. Colorado: Conflict Research Consortium. Retrieved from

Pratto, F., & Penelope, E. (2001). Gender, Ethnicity, and Power. Journal of Social Issues 57(4), 763-780.

Samant, U. (1996). Literacy and social change: from women’s perspective. Proceedings of the 1996 world conference on literacy. Retrieved from

World Conference on Education for All (WCEFA). (1990). World Declaration on Education for All and Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs. New York, NY: UNICEF/UNESCO.

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