So, this video came across my Facebook today and got me
furious, I mean curious. Many times (moreso these days than most) I’ve been accused of having “white privilege” and living in the lap of luxury and not knowing what it’s like to be prejudged by the color of my skin. It’s infuriating really because more often than not, the people making these accusations (often behind the anonymity of the Internet) know nothing about my socio-economic background. They know nothing of my life, but they blithely accuse me of all kinds of atrocities based on nothing but the whiteness of my skin. Ironic much? So I thought I’d answer the questions in the video (found here) and see where I fall on their “privilege” scale. Now, based on the video, it appears that you move forward or backwards if the question tells you to, but remain in place if the question doesn’t apply to you. So that’s how I interpreted it. So, here we go.
1 — If your parents worked nights and weekends to support your family, take one step back.
2 — If you are able to move through the world without fear of sexual assault, take one step forward.
3 — If you can show affection for your romantic partner in public without fear of ridicule or violence, take one step forward.
4 — If you have ever been diagnosed as having a physical or mental illness/disability, take one step back.
5 — If the primary language spoken in your household growing up was not English, take one step back.
6 — If you came from a supportive family environment take one step forward.
7 — If you have ever tried to change your speech or mannerisms to gain credibility, take one step back
8 — If you can go anywhere in the country, and easily find the kinds of hair products you need and/or cosmetics that match your skin color, take one step forward.
9 — If you were embarrassed about your clothes or house while growing up, take one step back.
10 — If you can make mistakes and not have people attribute your behavior to flaws in your racial/gender group, take one step forward.
11 — If you can legally marry the person you love, regardless of where you live, take one step forward.
12 — If you were born in the United States, take one step forward.
13 — If you or your parents have ever gone through a divorce, take one step back.
14 — If you felt like you had adequate access to healthy food growing up, take one step forward.
15 — If you are reasonably sure you would be hired for a job based on your ability and qualifications, take one step forward.
16 — If you would never think twice about calling the police when trouble occurs, take one step forward.
17 — If you can see a doctor whenever you feel the need, take one step forward. (but it hasn’t always been so)
18 — If you feel comfortable being emotionally expressive/open, take one step forward.
19 — If you have ever been the only person of your race/gender/socio-economic status/ sexual orientation in a classroom or workplace setting, please take one step back.
20 — If you took out loans for your education take one step backward.
21 — If you get time off for your religious holidays, take one step forward.
22 — If you had a job during your high school and college years, take one step back.
23 — If you feel comfortable walking home alone at night, take one step forward.
24 — If you have ever traveled outside the United States, take one step forward.
25 — If you have ever felt like there was NOT adequate or accurate representation of your racial group, sexual orientation group, gender group, and/or disability group in the media, take one step back.
26 — If you feel confident that your parents would be able to financially help/support you if you were going through a financial hardship, take one step forward.
27 — If you have ever been bullied or made fun of based on something that you can’t change, take one step back.
28 — If there were more than 50 books in your house growing up, take one step forward.
29 — If you studied the culture or the history of your ancestors in elementary school take one step forward.
30 — If your parents or guardians attended college, take one step forward.
31 — If you ever went on a family vacation, take one step forward.
32 — If you can buy new clothes or go out to dinner when you want to, take one step forward. (but it hasn’t always been so)
33 — If you were ever offered a job because of your association with a friend or family member, take one step forward.
34 — If one of your parents was ever laid off or unemployed not by choice, take one step back.
35 — If you were ever uncomfortable about a joke or a statement you overheard related to your race, ethnicity, gender, appearance, or sexual orientation but felt unsafe to confront the situation, take one step back.
So, the final tally for me is 11 back and 11 forward, (I started with back because my first step was backwards, don’t read anything into it) which puts me right back at the starting line. I guess that makes me pretty much neutral in the “privileged” arena according to this. Because if I’m interpreting this correctly, we all start on the same line. Then everyone moves forward or backwards according to their circumstances. I ended up back on the starting line. That makes me neither privileged nor underprivileged. and I’m okay with that.
Here’s the thing though… I worked damned hard to earn some of the “privileges” I have now, like being able to see a doctor whenever I want, or being able to buy new clothes or go out to dinner whenever I want to. Most of my adult life I was considered the “working poor” and that was even while I had a husband in the military! We often didn’t have enough money for groceries and new clothes for the kids, let alone eating out. Forget new clothes for me. It was thrift store clothing all around (he got his uniforms from the military). At least while I was married to him we had healthcare… such as it was. But after my divorce, I spent much of my adult life without adequate health care, with no health insurance at all even, and the only time I saw a doctor was if there was an emergency. I used the local county’s mental health facilities to get the mental health care I needed, and sometimes that was seriously lacking, but usually it was all I had.
Now, anyone who read my previous post about being a drifter might say that I chose to be poor, and that’s kinda true, but it’s not the whole story. I grew up poor, and that wasn’t my choice. I chose not to have a career so that had some influence on the poverty I experienced, but it’s not as cut and dry as all of that. If life were that simple, it wouldn’t be as interesting would it? No, even though I made some not so great life choices, that did have an impact on my poverty level, they weren’t because of my privilege. They were mostly because my brain isn’t wired correctly (bipolar – I can take a step back, right?). Don’t think that I chose to become a drifter because I had the option to go to college for free or had a cushy job at Daddy’s company all laid out for me and chose not to, that wasn’t even in the cards. Even if I’d chosen to become a database analyst (the thing I’m really good at) , I’m pretty sure I would have been poor for quite a while before I worked my way up the corporate ladder enough to stave off my impoverished upbringing. My life choices just put it off a little longer is all. And, as I explained in my previous post, I’m happier for it.
But really, don’t talk to me about buying hair products as being a privilege when I have memories of stocking my pantry with Ramen and peanut butter to make it to the next paycheck, or eating lettuce sandwiches as a kid (lettuce is cheap you know). I know, I know, they’re talking about not having to go behind the locked display case to get my 99 cent bottles of Suave shampoo & conditioner. Which, I will admit, I can find anywhere. Yay privilege! I will also admit to being born with an honest face, so I could rob a store blind and most clerks won’t even look at me as being a culprit (Nope, never did that, not once, ever, not even as a teenager… >>whistles innocently<<). That’s not because I’m white though… I really do have an honest face and demeanor. My twin has the same face as I do, but people are often suspicious of her. It’s a gift I suppose. ^_^
Back to the questionnaire… so what if my house had more than 50 books as a kid? Do you know how cheap books are at thrift stores and used book stores? They practically give those things away. You could buy a grocery bag full for a dollar if you didn’t care what was in it. And at yard sales. Go at the end of the day and they’ll give them to you by the box. Libraries destroy them because they can’t get rid of them fast enough. They’re like the cheapest vacation one can buy, and my mom had issues. Our whole family had issues. We needed to escape the really real world. Mom had a whole bedroom dedicated to books while we kids were piled two and three to a room (there were five of us). Don’t talk to me about having books as a privilege. I’ve always had a ton of books even during my lowest point financially. Books are cheaper than cheap. We didn’t spend the rent to buy them. I honestly don’t see that as a privilege.
And don’t start comparing the United States with other countries. This questionnaire was obviously USA-centric. I know that we have it better than other countries. But here’s the thing, I will not apologize for the accident of my birth. I am not sorry I was born in the United States with white skin. I’m not sorry for being born straight either. I had no more choice in that than anyone who was born otherwise. I’m not Christian (though people often assume that I am because I’m, you know, white and female), but I will defend a Christian’s right to be Christian. I’ll also defend a Muslim’s right to be Muslim, a Wiccan’s right to be Wiccan, a Jewish person’s right to be Jewish… and so on. This is a free country built on the freedom of religion, and that means all religions. I’m not sorry that I was born with the parents I have who made some pretty awful choices. I didn’t make those choices, and I didn’t ask to be born to those parents and into those circumstances. I’ve done the best I could with what I was given. I’ve tried to keep my garden clean (a la Candide) and that’s the best I can do. Am I privileged? I don’t really think so, nor do I think I’m underprivileged. I think I’m just a person… someone who’s trying to make her way in the world without making waves. I will not apologize for choices other people have made or things other people have done. I will apologize for things I’ve done, but only for things I’ve done. If someone accuses me of things I have not done, but something they believe I’ve done due to my “white privilege” they can kiss my left toe. And that’s all I really have to say about that.
Just for fun, and because it’s on my brain… Thrift Stop (NSFW – language)