I can only assume that the general atmosphere around this time of year is to blame, but I’ve been thinking quite a bit for the last several weeks about how great I have things. I have life pretty easy, in all.
I was born into a country that affords me a tremendous amount of freedom and a ludicrous amount of invisible benefits that I usually take for granted. I can bitch about my government and its representatives with impunity, I can protest without significant fear of reprisal. I am allowed to cast a vote for the person that I best think will fulfill my wishes (or least piss all over my wishes) as they go to work for me as my representative to the government.
I was born a white, able-bodied male in a relatively accent-free region of our country with a particularly great public school system. Despite being firmly middle-class growing up, this means that I was afforded the opportunities to experience computers at a very young age, receive an excellent education that was financed at least in part by people who made a lot more that my family, and was given to believe both in word and in deed that there were literally no limits to my ability to achieve in life. I was American™, and goddamnit, I could do anything I wanted.
I have a job that can be stressful and can be draining, but overall represents the happiest I’ve been at work in my career. Beyond that, though, at my job, I have the benefit of having everything I do be representative of me, and me alone. When I get loud, I’m passionate. When I speak bluntly, I’m being frank. I’m never “bitchy” or “shrill” and I never have to worry that my actions will make it harder for other people like me to be taken seriously. I also know that, should I ever need to search for a new job, I will not have to seriously worry that I simply won’t get called in for an interview because of my race, religion, gender, orientation, or anything else except my overall ability to do the job (which is quite a relief, as I’m something of a hard sell to begin with even without increasing the level of difficulty).
Does this mean that I suffered no hardship during my life? Absolutely not. That’s an absurd question to ask, and you’re absurd for asking it. :) What it does mean is that I am profoundly grateful for all of these gifts…all of these privileges…that I have been granted without ever having asked for them.
I choose to show that gratitude, when I remember to, in several ways. One is simply by reminding myself that these things (and many more like them) exist. Another is by doing whatever small things I can, day to day, to try to help other people who maybe weren’t quite so lucky to get some of these gifts for themselves too.
And that is what would make me the most grateful this season. To know that some of you would take a moment to do the same. Think about how lucky you are in so many ways for just a few moments, then share that luck with someone else. Donate to a charity, help someone you know that needs it, or spend some time and energy improving things for those that don’t benefit from our same sort of luck.
If you’re so inclined, here’s some pretty great reading to get you started (and please note, I hate the term ‘privilege’ because I think it no longer creates a useful conversation, but I implore you to substitute some other, less objectionable word when reading these excellent resources):
- 30+ Examples of Middle-to-Upper Class Privilege (I love that this refers to ‘class’ in a way that rings true)
- Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person (this is one of my favorites)
- 9 Ways You Can Use Your White Privilege For Good