On Privilege

Who were you in a past life? What spice are you? What cartoon character are you? If you use Facebook at all, you’ve probably seen at least one of these quizzes and perhaps even took one as well. A quiz that was a little more deep showed up that a friend had taken and so I decided to take it as well. I believe it was along the lines of how privileged are you.

This one was longer than most of the other quizzes with real questions about how you grew up, how you’ve been treated in life, and how you’re living now. I’m generalizing quite a bit, but you can just Google the quiz and take it yourself. 100 questions. It doesn’t take super long and it’s interesting. According to the quiz, I’m pretty privileged. More than a halfway “score” but less than a three-quarters “score” and that made me stop and think. And to travel back in time through memories.

While I don’t remember it, I know that when I was super young, we lived in a trailer at the bottom of my grandparents’ yard. I only have old pictures and stories of those days, but I like to think that my mom and dad were doing ok, even in their earliest years of marriage. What I do know about that time is that I was surrounded with love between parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and neighbors.

Jumping ahead to the early ‘80s, I surely wouldn’t have thought at that time that I was privileged. Our Christmases weren’t lavish, we didn’t get presents from the Easter bunny (because it’s NOT A GIFT GIVING HOLIDAY, PEOPLE!), and at times, we were probably dressed like we had gone shopping with the Fresh Prince’s mom before school. BUT, and this is a big one looking back on it, we had a new house. I guess that even then, my folks were trying to instill some sort of knowledge about priorities in us. I think in that way, we were privileged as none of our friends had what we had house-wise, but back then, I probably would’ve rather lived in the trailer and had stuff. Good thing I wasn’t in charge.

I’d say that all remained the same pretty much through the high school years. Nice house, not a lot of stuff. Ha, my brother would probably score higher on the quiz than I did because he always got better Christmas presents. Now, mind you, this is probably also because he asked for crazy shit where I did not. The things I did ask for I did get though. Keyboard? Check. Electric guitar? Check. Neighbors threatening my parents that they would move away if the next year included a drum set? Check. Drum kit? Denied! All that said, Christmas was never really my thing as far as I can remember. The best part of it all was when I was finally old enough to decorate the tree on my own. That was all I wanted. Bubble lights, the bird, and tinsel. Didn’t really even care about the presents. Does that make me privileged? Probably not. Did it make ma a strange kid? Probably so.

I had a car when I was 17. It wasn’t new by any stretch of the imagination. I was actually only 4 years older than it. BUT, I also had a full-time job and I was paying for my gas. Insurance the ‘rents covered for a little while. My second car was a step up and I was only 2 years older than it. The lead sled. A 75 Chrysler Cordoba. I think my parents may have put me in that because I could’ve driven it over a cliff and walked away unscathed because that thing was a tank. Privileged? Maybe?

I’d like to say that I’ve been privileged enough to not have to deal with racism, but alas, I grew up in small town western Pennsylvania – you do the math. A fly on the rice. It wasn’t OVERLY bad. Pretty sure I only had one person drop an ‘n-word’ on me in all the time I can remember. There are a couple of instances where I can clearly recall like it was just said, something being said to me that was crazily racist and oddly enough, I can remember who said them and exactly where we were. I guess those sorts of things just get burned into your memory. It was a strange way to grow up, but I can say with certainty that I wouldn’t be who I am today without having all of you folks to internally rage against.

Back to privilege. At 18, I traveled for work. A lot. So I got to see a lot of the east coast, certainly before my peers did, and to this day still, probably before some of those same folks. I saw different places, met different people, and started coming into my own. As I got a little older and started making my way to the downtown area, I started to realize how big the world was and how small our town was. If knowledge was equal to privilege, then at that time, I should’ve been royalty or something.

Since this isn’t an autobiography, I’m going to skip over about 20 years. But I know that in those years, I’ve done and seen things that others in my age bracket had not. Hell, I’d done and seen things that people in my current age bracket haven’t. I dropped everything that was familiar and took a chance with Club Med. I got a passport. Seems like no big deal, right? Do you have yours? Have you used it? A surprising amount of folks would answer no to at least one of those questions. Having a passport doesn’t equal privileged, but I guess having stamps in it does to some extent.

I’ve never been homeless, nor have I ever been truly hungry as my dad liked to point out if I said I was starving and couldn’t wait for dinner. Yes, I’ve been discriminated against, but I took that and turned it around to my advantage. It fueled me. And partially with that fuel, I built the fire of privilege. I keep it stoked.

I guess in the end, I will admit that I’m more privileged than some others and less than some others as well. There’s a roof over my head, food in my belly, a reliable vehicle to get me from A to B, and a steady paycheck. I am loved which is probably the greatest privilege. I am fortunate enough to still have my mom and my mother-in-law. I have a wisenheimer brother, a only slightly less wisenheimer half-brother, and a wonderful daughter. I have a BeFri to my StEnds, the other half of my DINK-ness who shows me all the time how he feels privileged to have me, which in turn makes me privileged. Together, we run the world like Jay-Z and Beyonce except on a tremendously smaller scale and better looking male and a worse dancer female. When we do our tour, it’ll only be the northeast states, lol. PA – NY – DC, we’re coming for you next year.

It’s been far from a charmed life, but I’m wise enough to know that it’s been better than a lot of folks. Every experience, whether good or bad, has been a stepping stone to where I am, and every experience going forward is yet another stepping stone to where I am going. Am I privileged enough to know my final destination? No. But I think I’m just privileged enough to get there with love and support, and possibly new yoga pants. J

If you take a look back at your life, where do you stand? Are things as bad as you think they are? Have they gotten better than you realize? Sometimes it takes something as simple as Facebook to really make us stop and think. Happy Tuesday.

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