Saturday, September 5, 2015

White Privilege. I Haz It.

Interesting conversation here on Quora on the question,

Why are white people in America so unaware of their white privilege?

I read somewhere this summer that white privilege is nothing more than the intense luxury of having one's natural condition be the norm. I've been thinking about this as I get settled in to a job which I most certainly would never have gotten where it not for a million tiny threads which are made of privilege.

I grew up in a two-parent family in comfortable houses in lovely suburbs with good schools. We always had enough to eat, health care, occasional family trips, music lessons. My mother stayed home. She read aloud to us when we were young, advocated for us in school, took us everywhere we needed to go.

More than anything else I was the gold standard for normal when it came to being accepted, included, or just getting by. My presence in the room didn't make anyone nervous. To be clear, there are certainly things I have worked for in my life but this is not one of them.

The past twelve years I was able to work a creatively-fulfilling, part-time job because the financial stability of my family made that possible. I was able to take my time this summer applying for jobs for the same reason. And now I have accepted a job which has a great likelihood of becoming full-time but I have the luxury of choosing it because it is the job I want, rather than being compelled to take the job which offers the most money right away.

This is privilege.

Privilege to choose the better, though lower-paying, job. Not unlike the privilege of being able to take non-paying internships which provide crucial training and connections for career-building. And this privilege is not purely financial, though some like to think it is.

When you are normal, the magic doors open for you and you do not even know they are magic.

It turns out that I had friends from all over the community that had ties to my new place of employment and could recommend me in the job process. This does not mean that I am not qualified for my job. It does not discount my education or work experience. But I acknowledge that so much of what I bring to the workplace is as a result of having had so many opportunities to "be in the room", be trusted, be accepted, be normal.

Understanding this is just a tiny thing, I know. In the past I looked at the blessings in my life and tried to be conscious of living a life suffused with gratitude. From gratitude came a desire to share with others, help when I was able to help. But now I'm on a journey to discover what other responsibilities I have.

To those who have been given much, much is required.




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