As I’ve been parsing my privilege, I have realized that it starts at birth. We won’t even consider the fact that I am a white American born citizen descended from generations of the same. Those points of privilege are a given. Anyone who doesn’t realize what advantages come with them just isn’t paying attention.
My first privilege was a stable home environment. I was born to a happily married couple of honest hardworking people. They didn’t marry until they were 30 and 31. They had known each other for about five years. I was born a year later and from that day until my father died, I never heard them argue, never saw them angry with each other. I’m not saying they never disagreed, just that they worked out their problems quietly and without letting it affect us kids. As far as we could tell, our parents had the perfect marriage that lasted more than 35 years.
Part of that stability was the fact that, even though we were never well off, we always had a clean, comfortable home and plenty to eat. With five children and a limited income, it wasn’t easy but my parents saw to it that we always had what we needed and, at least, some of what we wanted. They also instilled good values and a strong work ethic in us, mainly by setting an example.
My second privilege was being fortunate enough to be born healthy with no disabilities. My aunt and uncle had a stillborn daughter and a son with spina bifida. I had another aunt who had severe scoliosis. Three of my four brothers were also born healthy and strong, but the other one was subject to seizures that eventually got so severe they had to be controlled with medication for years. Two of them had dyslexia at a time when no one knew what it was. They never did learn to read well which limited their employment opportunities.
Consider how many people in this country, never mind other parts of the world, are raised in broken homes or are mired in poverty. How many have parents who fail to give them good values or the loving attention that every child needs. Look around at the number of people who must deal with limiting handicaps all their lives. Think of how many families are homeless or living in refugee camps.
I have only scratched the surface of the myriad ways that my life has been filled with advantages. Things that I, like most people, have usually taken for granted; and being able to do that is a privilege all by itself. I’m not done yet with this subject. Stay with me. Part 3 next week.