privilege (or lack thereof)

this woman posted this on her blog and i thought i’d steal it with my facts about my life. like this woman, i’ve also bolded the ones that are true about me and added comments where relevant. ”From What Privileges Do You Have?,” an exercise about class and privilege developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. a (thoughtful) discussion follows:

1. Father went to college
2. Father finished college
3. Mother went to college (My mom was a junior in college when i was born in 1981.)
4. Mother finished college (She finished her degree in 2001, one year before I finished my bachelor’s. She then got a master’s in 2003 and is working towards a doctorate now.)

5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor
6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers.
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home. (We had many more than 50, though. And we went to the library constantly.)
9. Were read children’s books by a parent.
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18 (I took dance classes for a month or two when I was 10. My father plays the piano, so I guess I got lessons in that too.)
11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18
12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively. (Well, I dress okay and have a couple of degrees so I guess I “speak well” too. I’ve see this listed as “people who look like me” – if it was that, I would not be bolding. But since it’s so narrow…
13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18.
14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs.
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs.
16. Went to a private high school.
17. Went to summer camp. (Not sure what this means exactly. Does it mean sleep-away camp? I was a girl scout, so I did go away for a week a few years. My parents worked over the summer too, so we would sometimes go to day camp for half days at the local rec center.)
18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18.
19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels (My family never went on vacation. Ever.)
20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18. (When I was in high school, I worked at the Gap, and yes, bought all my clothes new. But my mom said when we were children she would shop at thrift shops even though my dad was against it.)
21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them. (My first car was one I bought myself at the age of 23 and it was used. It was not until last year that 1-my mother had a car of her own, and 2-both parents had new cars.)
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child.
23. You and your family lived in a single-family house. (My ignorance here is shameful – does it mean stand-alone, like no other houses attached, or just a house as opposed to an apartment? We lived in a twin (attached to one other house.))
24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home (They still do not.)
25. You had your own room as a child (Yes, it was just me and my brother and we had our own rooms.)
26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18. (Nope, my mom was against that. My brother and I did have a line what we shared with the dial-up internet, though.)
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course.
28. Had your own TV in your room in high school. (Yup, my mom was all for this. For some reason having a TV in bedrooms is really important to her. I don’t think I’ll ever allow it with my kids. It promotes too much alone time, let alone too much TV.)
29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college.
30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16. (Nope – my first plane ride was when I was 18 and I went here with my then-boyfriend’s family. I saved $700 from working through my freshman year in college for that trip.)
31. Went on a cruise with your family.
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family.
33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up. (Not with my parents, but I lived in a city with many museums and we went with school sometimes.)
34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family. (I was always cold, so yes, I knew how much heat costs.)

when i was in college, i played this “game” in a class. we all stood in a straight line and when a statement was read aloud, we all took a step forward if it was true for us, and a step back if it was not. it was called the horatio algers game for the rags to riches author. there were other statements too, most taken from Peggy McIntosh’s discussion of white privilege. anyway, when i played the game, i was always at the back of the class, often times by myself. after playing this game, and for almost a year later, i was a really angry black woman.

but my kids will probably be able to bold almost all of the items above. so that makes me think about teaching them about racism and the other “isms” out there. unless you are teaching about systematic (institutional) racism, teaching kids about racism is difficult, as they are less and less likely every year to experience some out and out racist isht. but what about teaching them about privilege? it seems like the right way to go; we are all privileged in one way or another because privilege is about comparison. i have some thing that you don’t (or can’t) have, and that something gives me an advantage somewhere somehow. privilege can be separated from blame in a way racism cannot – you may be privileged just from birth through no fault of your own (that makes you feel better, right?). i hope that in teaching my kids about the ways in which they are privileged, they will also learn about the ways in which they are disadvantaged. it just seems more prudent to kill two birds with one stone instead of the typical “you need to know about racism because george bush doesn’t care about black people” message that many of us have gotten over the years (as true as it may be).

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