Check your Privilege

I have a confession to make, one that I've been consciously trying to mask for the last year- I am a privileged kid. This is not to mean that I've been featured on richkidsofinstagram, or I vacation at the Bahamas on my private yacht, but it does mean that I've traveled quite a fair bit. It doesn't mean that I buy and spend with the blissful ignorance of the supremely wealthy, but it does mean that I've never wanted for much. It doesn't mean that college is just something to pass the time with, but it does mean that I don't have to worry where my tuition is going to come from. 

I get pretty much what I want (within reason), although my parents have always hammered the value of thriftiness into me. I don't know what it feels like to truly be hungry, what it feels like to really worry about money, and what it feels like to not be able to afford higher education. I am not the 1%, but I'm pretty damn close.

But isn't that a good thing? Isn't being (decently) wealthy and not having to worry about money a great thing? Isn't that what so many people dream about achieving for themselves and their children? Why would it possibly be something that I want to hide?

Because, ever since the Occupy movement, ever since the phrase "Check your privilege" came into popularity, and long before that, not needing to work was seen as something negative. And I understand that view, because after all, someone working hard to achieve something must surely look down upon someone who has simply received it. 

But while the privilege of the wealthy can (and should) be checked, the problem with being privileged is somehow, eventually feeling apologetic for being lucky enough to escape most hardships. Sometimes, I feel the need to hide that I haven't undergone any serious hardship because it feels like a badge of shame, and I get very defensive when someone suggests that I have never done any work (read: hard labor) in my life. And this feeling of needing to say sorry results in a very strange desire, a desire that sometimes I wish I wasn't comfortable and lucky.

I feel a bit like Token in Here Comes the Neighbourhood, Season 5 Episode 18 of South Park:


I am of course also very conscious of how privileged this problem is (after all my problem with privilege is that I am privileged), and this feels a little analogous to the ignorance behind the (falsely attributed to Marie Antoinette) "Let them eat cake." Any serious attempt to really solve a problem that is at its heart just "Oh I'm rich" is ignoring a whole host of other more worthily tackled problems, so I'm not suggesting a support group of rich kids. "Hi, my name is Kevin, and my family makes 10 million annually..."

What I am suggesting, instead, is to not feel ashamed about being privileged, but rather be aware. Those successful have all been blessed by tremendous strokes of luck, and money is often only one of many (others include meeting the right friends, finding the right mentors, or simply being at the right place at the right time). Being ashamed of being lucky is unhealthy, but being unaware of being lucky is ridiculous. I don't think being born into wealth is something to be uncomfortable with, but it definitely is something to recognize and be aware of, especially since your birth is likely the biggest inequality there is. Do not be guilty about your privilege, but do not forget it, and when you are in a position to help others, remember that luck is arbitrary, and it could've very easily been you needing help.

So don't be ashamed of your privilege- but remember to check it, and to share it.