I am a 28 year old Latina. I’ve never experienced overt racism or systemic racism but I have experienced micro aggressions. I consider myself privileged. Here’s why:
I grew up in a good neighborhood, had access to good schools, and was brought up and supported by two parents. My parents were able to afford private catholic school for me for grades K-8. I had the option to choose which high school I wanted to go to: another private high school or the local public school. It didn’t matter which one I chose, I would get a good education. I was then able to go to college to get a B.A. and an M.F.A without being bogged down by student debt. My parents graciously paid for my undergraduate education and helped me pay for my masters. I have a job and I get to keep every dollar that I make. I live with my parents, rent free, without having to be a burden on them (I do pay for most of my own expenses). This is allowing me to grow my own wealth. One day, when both of my parents pass, I will inherit their wealth and their property. This will allow me (and my sister) to one day pass this wealth onto our descendants, if we choose to have them.
Of course, I am able to have all this because I worked hard and, more notably, my parents worked hard.
However, I can’t help but think how my life would have been if I, or my parents, or even my grandparents, didn’t make the decisions we made. Or simply didn’t have choices at all.
My mom immigrated into this country when she was only 7. She didn’t speak a word of English and had to work ten times harder so that she could get the lesson and learn English – without the help of her parents. My grandpa worked himself to death in order for his children to go to a private catholic school and college. My grandma was the one who insisted they moved to the U.S. in the first place, because she knew that was how they would have a better life.
I know I wouldn’t be here today if my mom’s family hadn’t moved. I know I wouldn’t be here if my mom didn’t make the “right” decisions and was determined to make a better life for herself.
My dad was born here, but his dad never finished high school. At the beginning of my dad’s high school career, my grandpa sat him down and told him that it was important to finish high school. My dad not only wanted to graduate from high school, but also wanted to go to college.
And he did. And he was able to get a job soon after graduation. That job turned into a 37 year career.
I know I wouldn’t be here today if my dad didn’t set his sights higher than high school (especially since college is where my parents met). But I also know I wouldn’t be here if my dad didn’t make the “right” decisions.
I keep saying “right” decisions, because that’s how we validate the American Dream in this country. If you make all the “right” decisions, then you can make it, you can be successful, have a comfortable life.
But remember, my parents are Hispanic as well. What if, because of their race and/or gender, something happened to them or they ended up in a different situation that prevented them from having access to choices in the first place?
What if my dad was incarcerated? Let’s just say, for a crime he didn’t commit (because that happens a lot to Black and brown men). If this happened at any point in his life, with me already in it or not, no doubt it would have lasting effects.
What if my mom had an unplanned pregnancy out of wedlock? Would she have support from her family? I’d like to think so, but I’m not sure. Would there be a father figure? I don’t know. But I do know that her life would have been very different. I do know that being a single mother or having kids too young brings an onslaught of judgement by society. And she would have gotten that for just being a woman. It adds another layer with her being Mexican.
I’m not so detached from realizing I have privilege because my mom and my grandparents are immigrants. I know that everything I have is because of them and what they did. But I also know that my life would be very different if I didn’t have choices available to me.
While you may dismiss this as just hard work and pulling yourself up from your bootstraps, we could have easily ended up in a spot where we didn’t have opportunities, didn’t have the “right” choices, didn’t have those bootstraps. Because of where we come from and our skin color, everything could have been taken from us.
I encourage you to think deep about the privilege that you have. What has made your life easier than others? What choices were you given so that you could have the life you do now? Keep in mind not everyone has access to that.
So what does one do with the newly realized privilege that they have? You use it to help others that don’t have access to opportunities like you do. Advocate for change that supports the those in need. Donate to charities that support those on the outskirts of society.
This is how we make wealth truly grow in America. What could our country look life if everyone had choices?
“The Play Equity Fund is dedicated to supporting programs and actions to ensure all kids have equal access to sport and structured play.”
Everyone knows sports is a great way to get kids active and for them to learn discipline, while keeping them busy and off the streets. Poorer families are less likely to participate in sports, as it can be expensive, as well as for other reasons. Please donate what you can.
This fund is based in L.A. but I encourage you to find one similar in your area.