You might have read the story about the white women in Tennessee who recently sauntered around a mall in their hoodies to prove a point.
They went to the same mall that had recently handcuffed several black men for breaking the no hoodie policy, and found they were able to walk around dressed however they wanted and remain on the property. This story got me thinking about my own privilege and how important it was for me to finally accept it and make peace with it.
There was a time I hated being accused of having privilege. Frankly, I wanted to say to my accusers, “You don’t know me! My life has not exactly been easy. I certainly am not privileged.” Years later I can say without a doubt that I was wrong. I am privileged, and chances are you are too.
I suppose I rejected ever having much privilege because I grew up in Aspen surrounded by so much wealth, and unfortunately I was too busy focusing on what I didn’t have. To add to my denial was my mamá’s constant reminders that my siblings and I were one generation removed from dirt floors, no indoor plumbing or electricity. It was hard for me to grasp a reality that had been hers and comprehend struggles that were not my own. Now that I’m a mom, I see she was trying to help me keep my privilege in check by helping me focus on all our blessings.
What’s not hard for me to understand is how insulting it can be when someone, who doesn’t even know you, assumes your life has been a cakewalk. Tell me how privileged you feel when you’re in the throes of the daily grind? Being human is hard and, I don’t care who you are, life sometimes is a struggle. Not to mention, it takes a very spiritually evolved being to not sometimes get jaded by all the wealth we are surrounded by in this part of the world.
But, let’s set the record straight. Being privileged does not mean you are sitting around on your butt all day. It has nothing to do with how hard you work. It does have to do with having advantages in life that we obtain through no effort or choice of our own. Think of it like being born with a certain kit that gets you through life a bit easier.
Although I didn’t always see it, my kit is bursting at the seams with privilege. Here are just a few examples of some of the advantages I was born with.
- A totally functional body. I have not struggled in life like say, for example, someone who was born deaf or blind or has a mental illness.
- I grew up in stable, loving and peaceful home that my parents owned. For that reason I never had to bounce around from school to school, witness domestic violence, nor have I ever missed a single meal in my whole life.
- And yes, I did grow up in Aspen. A place that is clean and safe and has a top notch public school system and many other opportunities in the community. There are so many people that can not say they had any of these advantages.
As uncomfortable as it may be to admit we have privilege it is important to do so. By accepting our own privilege, like the women at the mall in Tennessee, we can then call out the arrogance or inequality of our privilege and use that to lift and serve others who don’t have the same advantages. In simpler terms, accepting our privilege makes our society a better place for everyone. Yeah, you read that right. That was a big statement but I wholeheartedly believe it to be true.
If you take anything from these words just remember being human is hard. We have complex lives and even more complex and unique struggles that are not always apparent. Our privilege is not always apparent either. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not there and it hasn’t benefited us in multiple ways. It’s about time we all check our privilege at the door.
Judith Ritschard was born by the sea in Mexico then transplanted to the Roaring Fork Valley where she turned full on mountain girl. You might spot her in her huarache sandals on her townie bike trying to keep up with her two wildlings in Carbondale.