Musings on Privilege


I had a good discussion with a friend today and I was confronted with the reality of my privilege again. We were talking about school and how they were having trouble going back because they would have to work and I asked, confused, if they didn’t get loans. They are very kind and answered that they did but it wasn’t enough.

I listened for a while as they sketched for me the life they were living right now and what that life cost and why and I was really convicted, and angry. Not angry at them but at a system that would force this brilliant person to have to make these kinds of choices. And I start thinking about how lucky I have been.

I have not only been able to go back to school, but I have had a tremendous amount of help. My network is no minor thing. I separate myself from my family but they are so much a part of my existence, like it or not. When my car broke down my aunt loaned me money for a new one. When I needed money to pay for summer tuition up front, my aunt loaned it to me. I have been living in Bellingham for two years in a quite large apartment, free to come and go as I please, paying nothing but a small portion of the utilities, all thanks to the generosity of family members I literally almost never speak to.

When my friend talks about the reality of class and how they have just in the very recent past begun to realize what that means for them, I realize just how intangible it has been for me. I have not had to work hardly at all in the last 4 years. My mental health will always be something I keep an eye on but it is vastly improved and that is certainly largely because of how much my life has improved. And somewhat just pure luck of the draw, I imagine. Even now, as I plan to head off into the “real world” to find a job and such, I am moving in with people I love who are established and who give me a cushion.

I am stupidly lucky, is the moral of this story. My life continues an upward trend not so much because of my hard work and brains, but because I got dealt a good hand. It is stupid and it is unfair that my friend, who is certainly every bit as talented and intelligent as me (if not more so, honestly) hasn’t had the same opportunities because of systemic things that have nothing to do with them.

I feel frustrated and at a loss. On finding out that Trump is the pretty much for sure Republican candidate last night, I felt a sense of profound dread. But talking about it today, I wonder what that means and why. I am a middle-class white girl who will soon have her first degree. Yes, I’m queer but not in a particularly noticeable way. What am I afraid of for my life if Trump becomes president? And if it’s not for me, then am I preparing to use my voice, face, and whatever power I’ve been granted to fight for the people who will almost certainly be disproportionately affected? Am I doing that for people who are being disproportionately affected by things now? Is there a moral obligation to my own position  that I’m not meeting?

I don’t know the answers to any of these things. But I’m asking out loud because I’m hoping that will make it harder to ignore.


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