I finally got around to taking the “How Privileged Are You Test?” created by Buzzfeed. Previously, I posted that Buzzfeed is a vanguard in how we communicate about race in the 21st century. This test just cements that status.
Not-so-suprisingly, my results revealed that I’m “quite privileged.” I’m able-bodied, from a supportive middle class family, hold a college degree, and have a decent paying job in the field of my choice. I was raised by both parents who empowered me to succeed. I didn’t have it all, but I certainly had enough.
I never went without. As an adolescent, I never knew struggle outside of issues with my self-esteem and confidence. I never knew the horrid oppression of systematic racism or institutional slavery. I never knew the underbelly of racism until I left the sanctity of my NYC home, and headed to the urban suburb of Boston for university.
I talk a lot about white privilege and patriarchy. And I always will. I unapologetically believe that white Americans reap unearned advantages and benefits by the very nature of their skin color. I also unapologetically believe that patriarchy calls for the degradation and dehumanization of the female body, soul, and mind.
However, very rarely do I stop and realize how other socioeconomic factors play into the intricate dynamic of privilege. For now, being able-bodied means that I’ll never experience the hardship of restricted movement or mental incapacity. Being heterosexual means that I’ll never feel guilty about who I choose to love, or be assaulted for my lifestyle choices in that respect. Coming from a loving middle class household with two working parents means I’ll never comprehend hunger, poverty, or homelessness.
The very nature of privilege is complicated. Privilege, at its core, is an intangible conglomerate of layered factors. Privilege is subjective … and that’s what makes it frustrating. Every person understands privilege differently. Across racial, ethnic, cultural, physical, gender, sexuality, etc lines, privilege is the force that drives us together while pulling us apart.
For me, privilege has always been an uncomfortable reality. Whenever I do outreach or volunteer work in low-income communities of color, I never quite feel “at home.” I genuinely want to help my fellow brothers and sisters, but I impugn my ability to do so. Can I really be a great help when our only common denominator is the color of our skin? Is it even my place to empathize when I know nothing of the obstacles they constantly face? Will they ever trust me? Should they even trust me? How best do I develop a mutual bond with someone I can never thoroughly understand?
My feeling of camaraderie is authentic… but so too is my doubt.
This is the beauty and brashness of privilege. It allows us to build linkages while highlighting the differences in our social structures. Privilege is inevitable. Although the concept of privilege causes discomfort and at times, hypocrisy, it’s necessary to understand and dissect.
For me, it’s important to remember that privilege extends beyond the realm of race. Although I will continue to believe that the upwards social mobility of people of color is paramount for continued economic and political development, I need to remember that I do hold advantages that I did not earn. I did not choose to be blessed with a selfless family. I did not choose to stand on two legs. I did not choose the gender I was born into. I am not ashamed that I was dealt a pretty good hand.
But it is my choice to recognize how fluid my advantages are. It’s my choice to reflect on how unearned benefits fixate into our expansive socio-political landscape. And its my choice to do something about it.