Friday, July 10, 2015

Don't Feel Guilty About Privilege

Most Americans are privileged
by dint of simply being in this country.

If you are a healthy white heterosexual male with two parents who provided you with books and music lessons, and a college education, you had off the chart levels of privilege.  Guilty as charged!

But so what?   

People born into privilege should feel no shame, same as those born without privilege.

Kids do not create the circumstances they are born into.  Never apologize for who you are, unless who you are is an asshole.

Privilege is what most parents want for their children.  It's what most people want for themselves.

The problem is not privilege, and the goal is not equality of outcome.

The goal is simple recognition that a lot of people are running the race of life with rocks in their pockets and combat boots on their feet. They are being forced to start a half mile back, and with bad maps.

No, you may not have put rocks in anyone's pockets, started them a half mile back, or taken away anyone's running shoes.

But so what?  It's still unseemly to laud your victory while patting yourself on the back for running a "fair race" in which "everyone had an equal chance".

So don't feel guilty about privilege, but do try to help others.

Carry a few rocks. Donate some running shoes.  Offer guidance.  Be willing to give someone less fortunate a lift to the starting line.

Lean forward to do good work.  Help anyone who looks like they are struggling to help themselves.

Above all, don't feel smug about any victories you do chalk up.

No one is trying to take away your accomplishment, but if you accomplish something in America, you sure as hell didn't accomplish it alone.

So pay it forward out of gratitude, not guilt.  But for goodness sake (literally), pay it forward.

If you are born without privilege, life is simply going to be harder. The good news is that this country is full of rages-to-riches stories. Libraries are still free, and lots of people are willing to help anyone who is willing to come in early, stay late, listen, and work hard in between.  Live a life of discipline, and very good, if not great. things are likely to happen.  This is the most basic of American stories, and one that is more true now than it has ever been.

1 comment:

jeffrey thurston said...

I'm ambivalent about privilege. I grew up an American in Colombia- it was like being a little king in some ways. I like my creature comforts- a lot. But seeing how the rich Colombians lived on the backs of their people disgusted me even as a child (we're learning that here as our 1% bares it's teeth). Americans have no idea- even most poor Americans- of how bad it can get. So I admit to a weird admiration for those dictators and movements who took it out on the privileged- particularly Joe Stalin- I like the image of former high ladies in their furs scrubbing the streets... or Pol Pot...