I wanted to talk a little bit today about being privileged. What I think it means, and what I believe my responsibility is with that privilege.
As most of you know, I’m a 22 year old white girl living in Seattle WA. I could complain about my life sure! Tell you it’s unfair that I get paid $12.00 an hour for the job I do, say that most of my friends make way more than I. I have student loans I think are unfair.
I am blessed with an incredibly fantastic life. I’m a 22 year old living in Seattle WA for goodness sakes! I have a family who loves and supports me, great friends, the best boyfriend, a home to sleep. The rest is gravy, as they say. But I also have pretty great tasting gravy, the kind my Gammy makes at Thanksgiving!
I have beautiful clothes, awesome kitchen gadgets, a gym membership, Iphone and a laptop that give me access to the internet at all times.
I have time to pursue my dreams and passions, to better myself. I have time to watch “Friends” on Netflix every day. I am healthy. I have delicious food available to me.
I am also blessed just to be a human, I could be a bug or fish or something. I get to be one of the coolest species!
When I think about all the other people and animals in the world that suffer in order to provide me with a wonderful lifestyle…
…I don’t know about you guys but sometimes I get really sad and defeated. I feel guilty about what I have and the skin color I was born with. I’m completely overwhelmed with how to help people that don’t have what they need to live, when I have so much compared to others.
I’m not sure but I have a feeling I’m not alone. I’m pretty sure a lot of other people in my “privileged” and “white privileged” situation have a lot of the same feelings.
The thing is: one person who has another full time job and $0 worth of disposable income can’t singlehandedly take down sweatshops and child labor, or save all the orcas from captivity, etc. I have to realize that there are so many really smart people spending all the efforts trying to stop child labor that still haven’t done it!
I’ve also recently realized, through my years of living in a city, that you don’t have to feel bad for not giving to every homeless person. I’m not a cold hearted person, less than two days ago I saw someone on the streets who made me cry. But I have to realize I’m one person who can’t help even everyone who comes knocking on my proverbial door.
I need to give myself a break from this mental beating I seem to give myself every time I hear about horrible things happening to people, because just like they can’t help being born into their life, I can’t help being born into mine. I cannot help where my soul was sent to, and it’s unfair to keep apologizing for it.
It’s important to be grateful for the gift of privilege. I did nothing to deserve it, but none of us deserve anything anyway, in my opinion. It would be doing myself and others a dis-service to not be grateful for what I am given.
Now before everyone hates me for writing that, this is not where my train of thought has ended! I promise I’m not all like “well shucks I can’t do anything to help being white and rich so I’ll just live it up!”. I believe in trying your best to be responsible for the life you live, and those you impact. The emphasis though, trying your best. You see, you won’t be able to do your best if you have unrealistic expectations of how you can help. You need to have manageable, attainable goals for everything, including altruism. Otherwise you’ll live in this world of paralyzing self hatred and guilt, or unaware naiveté. Both of which, accomplish nothing.
Everyone has their causes that speak to them extra loud. Mine are; animal rights, reducing my carbon footprint, women’s rights, & labor rights. At least they are right now. I’ve had a lot of exposure (through my various minimum wage jobs) of people desperately trying to live below the poverty level. I am a woman so I’m guessing that’s why the whole feminism thing. 😛 I’m in Seattle so the green thing must have rubbed off on me. I have always had the biggest heart for animals, I think I was one in a previous life. 🙂
My new, attainable goals to try and help these causes are:
1) Weekdays I am a pescatarian: only fish Monday – Friday
2) I am only buying clothes secondhand and will make an effort to do the same with all “stuff”. I will also be going on fasts every once in a while that will not allow me to purchase anything but food, and experiences; no things.
3) Instead of buying each other gifts, my boyfriend and I are going to give to charities every holiday, at least for the next few.
These are nothing grand at all! I’m sure I will be able to do more as time goes on, but as I talked about in my “30 days of smiling” I believe starting small is the only way to see real change.
Peace&Love — Molly Jo Sexton