Please check the rung of the ladder on which you have been born. Then we can talk privilege.
Privilege isn’t BAD! As long as you realize you actually are privieged in some way. And I’ll probably catch flack somewhere for this, but know I love you even if you hate me.
I’m tired of seeing the statements: “If you had my ‘work ethic” you would be just fine.” “If you just ‘got an education’ you wouldn’t be working a minimum wage job.” Please check your privilege. There are many ways a person has a leg up on others that they have ZERO control over.
We are ALL “privileged” in one way or another. The ladder to “success” is very difficult and very high. And to reach the top, yes, you DO have to have a good work ethic and work very very hard. But please check which rung you are simply BORN on.
Now, if you are not born on a higher rung, that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. This is just the way it is in the USA. The way people born on higher rungs like to keep it. It doesn’t mean it is impossible for you to reach “success”—it’s just way way harder. A few people here or there breaking through those drawbacks are great—but the deck is SERIOUSLY stacked against many people. Some of these things you may believe are ‘CHOICES’ and I’m not going to argue. But much of this is simply a way a person is BORN. Ask yourself how many of these rungs have you been given at birth? I’ll give myself at least 14 of these rungs because I can accept my own privilege and won’t try to deny it.
Let me tell you a story about Sam. Sam is currently five years old, so nothing that has happened in Sam’s life thus far has been within Sam’s control.
- Sam is male—Sam is not short for Samantha, although Samantha has a hidden privilege of having a name that could be mistaken as male—a privilege I take advantage of when I can.
- Sam is “white”—Sam is not short for Samir, although Samir also could try to utilize a hidden privilege just like Samantha
- Sam was born physically healthy.
- Sam has fine mental health, no learning or emotional disabilities
- Sam has two married parents
- Both of Sam’s parents are his biological parents
- Sam’s parents are straight
- Sam’s parents are both cis-gendered
- Sam’s parents were born in the USA
- Sam’s first/only language is English
- Sam’s parents work 9-5 jobs that provide enough food, shelter, clothing, general needs—plus their schedules allow enough time to actually raise him when he’s not in school or at a very good day care.
- Sam’s parents have insurance for him that doesn’t cut into the costs of day-to-day living needs: health, vision, dental
- Sam’s parents live in an affluent neighborhood, with a school that is fully funded and populated by that community full of people JUST LIKE SAM
- Sam’s water and food is healthy
- Sam’s yard is spacious and grassy- even if his parents don’t encourage outside activity, it is readily available and safe
- Sam is cis-gendered
- Sam is straight
- Sam is Christian
- Sam’s genetics dictate that he will be intelligent. He will also be aesthetically pleasing, strong, and quite tall. Depending on how hard he works, he may be able to go to college on academics or athletics scholarships. Maybe even both.
- Or neither. His parents/grandparents can afford to send Sam to college.
Does Sam have control over any of these factors? No. Sam is five years old. I’m super glad Sam has all of these things! I would never wish any of it taken away from him! I have super high hopes for Sam to be a productive, successful member of USA society.
But when Sam grows up and is highly successful, I hope he realizes how much of a jump up that ladder he was given. And if he isn’t trying to help others jump up that that ladder, the LEAST he can do is NOT tell anyone else “if you have my work ethic, you’d be just fine. I could do it, so can you.” Because no.
Sam did not start off in life on the same rung as even Samantha or Samir. Even if Samantha and Samir are EXACTLY the same as Sam in every other way. Having a difference in ANY of the aforementioned aspects cannot simply be overcome with a “good work ethic” equal to Sam’s.
Please don’t pretend people born on rungs below yours have the exact same ability to just “work harder” or “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” as you might have. “All men are created equal” is a myth—it should be “all people deserve equal.” Any one of these rungs being different can and does set a child off on a severely different path than Sam. It’s not even within that child’s control.
If you have a silver spoon in your mouth, you have two choices: help feed someone without a spoon, or just keep it in your mouth—because opening your mouth and spewing your prejudice helps no one.
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