"If you’re a middle class kid, or an upper middle class kid, or a rich kid, you have no right to claim that you got where you got simply because of hard work. You got where you are, at least in part, because of what others did for you, and if you hadn’t been born into a family of people who wanted to and were able to do those things for you, you would have needed someone else to do it."
this article has been floating around the internet today and i found it an intriguing read. however, even if you're not interested in slogging your way through the entire thing--i understand not everyone's political or personal sensibilities will agree with the author's perspective--at least consider the quote above and ponder the concept of privilege.
today, like most tuesdays, i went to my job at a corporate office in seattle. i've been complaining a bit to friends and family because it isn't the most fulfilling or exciting job, and it certainly isn't the life-changing work i pictured myself performing after i graduated from spu.
one of the salesman decided it would be a good idea for me and one of my co-workers to take a tour downstairs of the processing plant, which functions as a separate (but obviously related) entity from the corporate environment in which i work. he volunteered to take us on the tour personally, and i gladly accepted a distraction from the stacks of paperwork waiting to be filed.
and while there were some laughs on the tour (notably my co-worker attempting to hold a fish that turned out to be alive), overall i was stunned and sobered to witness the nature of the work for these employees just one floor beneath me.
i wore rubber boots on to keep my feet from touching the bloody water that swirled around on the floor, a consequence of the guillotine that cut the fish heads off. i watched lines of workers clean out fish guts and slice off spines over and over again, all in nearly freezing conditions. of course, they were bundled up, but the cold still found a way to seep its way through my jacket in the forty-five minutes i was down there. cold, damp, monotonous work touching fish guts and fish eggs for hours everyday. suddenly my excel spreadsheets seem positively delightful.
i also think it is important to note that the overwhelming majority of the employees working in this processing plant were not white.
the truth is, while i have worked hard in school, my hard work is not really what's keeping me in the plush corporate setting instead of downstairs in the processing plant with those folks.
i am upstairs in my pencil skirt because i was born to parents with college degrees and good jobs, who gave me their blessing to get involved in extracurriculars all throughout my education instead of working at a minimum wage job.
(heck, i was playing beethoven and hitting a tennis ball while others my age flipped burgers because they needed to work to pay the bills).
i am upstairs listening to my iPod because i was raised speaking the native language of this country, which is crucially important for success and legitimacy in both education and business settings.
i am upstairs in my comfy desk chair because my parents were willing to pay for me to go to college, and also because i attended a good high school that provided resources for aggressively pursuing scholarship opportunities even beyond parental ability to pay.
i am upstairs filing papers instead of slicing fish because of so many factors i did not control, and while i did work very hard to make the most of what i was given, i was in fact given much, and these factors would have been the same, regardless of whether or not i decided working hard was important or worthwhile. (which i do believe, for the record).
and not everyone is given the same opportunities with which they might attempt to create a good life for themselves, are they?