Don’t Look Down

Privilege is Having the Ability to Fail

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2017/06/13/06132017-dont-want-to-hurt-you/

I think I’m gonna drop facebook temporarily again, mostly because of my lunch. See, every day, at about 12/12:30, I have to make this choice that used to be “What am I having” but has evolved into “What am I prepared to do to myself”. Due to the area I live in, there’s a stark contrast between two types of establishments to eat at: the ones that are more affordable, but wreck my digestive system, or the ones that are more expensive but leave me feeling human.

And there is a privilege that comes with that choice.

Someone once told me “Privilege is having the ability to fail,” and to be honest, I do possess the that wiggle room. There’s no way to make that default situation in my life less unfair, but since becoming an adult, I have tried to be conscious of when my own privilege clouds my viewpoint. Though I like to think that my intent is consistently positive, my own entitlement can sometimes be off-putting even when it’s not what I would think of as directed at anyone. For example: I can deal calmly with things that would be catastrophic for some, like an unexpected expense or a disagreement with a supervisor, because they just aren’t catastrophic to me. And I know there are people for whom my ability to shake it off is both infuriating and crushing, like throwing away a banquet in front of a starving person. But can the only way to offset that really be to simply… not talk? Is that the solution? I may not deserve to have so much more than others, but am I not allowed to interact or be a part of the conversation? Do I belong less?

When I have doubts over whether I’m in the right, I’ve usually reflected on “the ideal world”: in an ideal world, would this fly? Obviously, everyone has a different definition of an ideal world, but in mine, every viewpoint has a place at the table. This of course gets tricky, and there are some obvious limitations. But it’s the best litmus test I’ve come up with.

The problem is, though we are working towards it, we do not currently live in an “ideal world”.

Thanks to my current work environment, where the conversation is an almost daily fixture, I have taken to talking about race more openly. In that setting, I’m always offered a seat at the table; though my skin is pale, I am Jewish, and thus only provisionally white. I say provisionally because white people who don’t like other ethnicities generally have Jews somewhere on their suspect list. In talking about this at work, I feel accepted and trusted. If I’m wrong or out of line (which happens), I’m corrected and educated. Perhaps that’s the benefits of having those conversations at a school.

The real world is less forgiving of such missteps. Having gotten overly comfortable in my bubble at work, and believing I was only speaking to a friend, I volunteered an opinion on Facebook. I didn’t mean to offend, but given the subject and the state of the world right now, my assumptive commentary on the world according to Josh was less appreciated than ever. True, this was on Facebook, the home of rational debate, but I’d be lying if I said the experience didn’t get to me. I felt… unwelcome to share an opinion on a public post. I don’t mind being corrected, but it hit a nerve, being yelled at for not knowing better. I truthfully have no beef with anyone; I wanted to just talk about what I’ve seen. Experienced. Why are my experiences invalid? Why am I not at this table too?

But maybe that’s the illusion that is the essence of privilege: that false sense that you can belong everywhere and can be entitled to behave as such when in fact… you can’t. And I think about how I have a choice where to eat while some people don’t. So until we get into that ideal world, maybe I’ll talk less and listen more…

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