July 21, 2010

A Person Of Privilege

That's me, in so many ways. I was born into privilege as a white person. I've never had to question whether my race was the reason for someone's decision affecting my life. I am an American, born in the most powerful country in the world, where I take for granted the freedom I have to move, work and learn. I have an education and all of the many options it gives me. I am straight and therefore what people have come to expect in their casting of roles.

Now I have a new sign of privilege: my car. I had no idea the impression it would give others. I was so excited to own exactly the car I wanted for the first time in my life. I still love to get in it every single time. But three times now I've been cursed for the crime of driving a convertible. The first time, I drove by a man standing on a corner downtown. As I passed he called out, "Asshole!" Who, me? Why? It took me a few minutes to realize what had transpired. It really made me think. The next two occasions of unintelligible remarks yet unmistakable intent told me this was a trend.

Huh. I'm being seen as a member of the elite, an entitled conspicuous consumer. I, who remembers those years when I put cardboard in my shoes to hide the holes in the soles; who drank powdered milk and wore hand-me-downs; who qualified for food stamps one unemployed summer; who didn't own a car until I'd been teaching for a year and a half.

I want to stop and correct these people's misapprehensions, but it doesn't really matter. I ask myself: how many times have I been guilty of the same assumptions? What crimes have I mentally accused people of doing simply based on appearances?

It's yet another wake-up call for me to not leap to conclusions, one of my own greatest failings. I need patience, pondering, and peaceful resolutions. It is a privilege to be able to drive the car I want. I can handle the heckling with grace.


rox said...

It's hard when people want to tear you down for being successful. The reason it's hard is because you know where you've come from and how much hard work it took to get here, so naturally guilt ensues. =)

Success is part luck, part hard work and part preparation.

Jeaux said...

Are you sure you didn't run over their chihuahua?

What a strange reaction - it's not exactly a Hummer. (I spit on those.) It's gotta be envy - an ugly emotion. No wonder it's a capital sin. Consider the source - who would ever call a woman an asshole? Beotch maybe. :-)

You've wanted that car for ever so long. OK, you've paid the ecstasy tax. I suspect it will taper off now, if not disappear. Maybe you should tamp down your Convertible Playlist, though. William Shatner is an acquired taste...

THIS IS ME....ONLINE said...

Somehow "don't judge the book by it's cover comes to mind". Enjoy the sunshine. "You can't please everyone".

I guess I'm full of cliches today. :)

Bear Me Out said...

I must admit I struggle with anger at rich folk (or those who just appear to be). It's probably some anger at my lack of choices.

I try to rejoice with those who rejoice, but it ain't always easy.

Ur-spo said...

It's yet another wake-up call for me to not leap to conclusions, one of my own greatest failings. I need patience, pondering, and peaceful resolutions

This is a good statement for all of us.

tornwordo said...

Good reminder. I only think "asshole" if it's a Hummer. I should probably stop that.