Why I’m Privileged

August 5, 2014


I’m white. I have societal advantages, most of which I’m probably unaware and are too numerous to mention. This even creates privilege in my social life when it comes to dating and making new friends.

I’m male. I don’t have to worry about being harassed on the street by virtue of my sex. I don’t have to fear rape (well, for the most part). I can travel to almost any country without fear for my safety.

I’m straight and cisgendered. Acceptance of gay and transgendered people has come a long way in the last decade, but it’s definitely carries a stigma in parts of the world… a death sentence in others.

I’m average height. No big and tall stores for me. I’m tall enough to reach where manufacturers intended people to reach, and not too short that I have to ask others for help. I don’t intimidate the majority of people by shadowing them, or feel inferior to them by looking up.

I’m not unattractive by conventional standards. Though this clearly ties in with height, health, skin color, and even gender, it’s important on its own for the simple fact I’m aware of how I’m viewed by others. I’m not Ryan Gosling, nor will I ever understand what it’s like to be desired by everyone. However, I will also never learn what it is to see revulsion in others’ eyes simply as a matter of genetics.

I’m healthy. My teeth are white, my eyesight is better than perfect, my hearing astonishing. Although I’ve known the pains of surgery and broken bones, I have no conditions that keep me tied to a hospital or any one doctor. I’m strong and healthy enough to travel to another country if I feel the cost of living in the US is too much. I don’t have any disabilities that prevent me from running, building muscle, and doing whatever it is I want to do.

I have good credit. I had parents who paid for private school and my university education. I wasn’t swayed by creditors offering pizza in exchange for signing up for a piece of plastic with terrible APR on west campus. I took my time to understand how credit works, and now I can gallivant across the world, using debt to my advantage.

I’m American. I can travel to almost anywhere on the planet and outer atmosphere without a visa, and I’m free to stay as long as I find work and pay into the economy. I grew up without knowing fear or poverty. I never had to think about working as a child, or finding a source of clean water. My education was guaranteed.

I never experienced any real hardship. I don’t have to walk a great distance to get water; what I have is clean, potable, and comes out whenever I exert as little effort as turning a knob.

All these things shape who I was growing up, and who I am now. Being aware of them is a step in the right direction; I probably would never have considered being white a privilege growing up because I never really saw many people with different colored skin. It took going to Japan and living there for years to understand what it was like to not have this privilege (albeit, replaced with a different one).

As a writer, I struggle with material. The truth is, my life is not that bad, nor is it likely to veer off course and put me in the gutter. And there’s the challenge: finding inspiration without overwhelming hardship. People don’t want to read about how good or at least average someone else’s life is when there are stories of avoiding disaster, overcoming suffering, and fighting to get what you want.

I can write all I like about the trials and tribulations of living abroad and trying to make a life for myself in the US, but in the end, that’s all they are: pitiful struggles. First world problems. Not exactly the source material for a quality novel or piece of journalism.

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