Checking my privilege…

With all the hubbub around privilege, sometimes I worry that I have some. It’s not that I am white. (I am Asian.) It’s not that I am male. (I am female.) But it’s this: I am a cis female born into a family of heterosexual parents living an upper middle class neighborhood.

And there’s this crazy thing: despite looking obviously Asian, I never was overtly aware of discrimination against being Asians. I didn’t witness any squinty eyes or the words “ching chong”. At least not directed toward me, but on TV and in books. That kind of stuff existed in a different world.

And there’s this other crazy thing: despite being female, I never was aware of any overt discrimination. Sure, there may have been subtle stuff that I wasn’t aware of…like salary, company culture fit, and expectations.

I came across an old journal entry from my sophomore year of college. In a moment of weakness, I turned a cold shoulder when close friends hurt me instead of figuring out the issues. I said something. They said something. To this day, I can’t remember what was exchanged or what had perpetuated the whole event. All I remember is standing in the middle of the street at 3 in the morning. The sky was dark, and the streets empty. We stared at each other in anger. One finally turned to the other and said, “She acts that way, because she’s rich.”

The two were unlike me. As daughters of a working class families, their college lives were dominated by a budget, constrained by financial aid. The three shared an apartment even smaller than mine. They arrived at college as the hope for their families to move beyond a working class life, a move toward attaining the American Dream. One told me that she feared riding the BART toward where I lived—”I am afraid of white people.” I pursed my lips and said nothing.

I am buoyed by the fact that I have a fallback plan. If I fall, I won’t fall onto concrete. I know that I will survive.

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