On Privilege

My morning ritual now is to roll out of bed, release Kumo from his crate for a brief hug and scuffle, pull on yesterday’s clothes, grab leash, keys and sunglasses before heading out the door for an hour-long walk with a little white dog at my side.

We have become a bit of a fixture in this neighborhood and it is no longer unusual to have people wave or offer a greeting. On this particular morning we saw a young woman jogging and I thought to myself that the U Mass students must be returning. Later, as we crossed a bridge, we moved over to let a young man on a bicycle pass. He too appeared to be a student–nice bike, preppy clothes, trim hair and eyeglasses, smelling freshly scrubbed as he rode by.

As pedestrians, we had the actual right of way on the sidewalk and yet it is my practice to move over for cyclists, a gesture which is almost always acknowledged with a smile or a thank you.

However, this young man, who looked the very epitome of privilege, did not appear to notice the woman and her dog (us), scrunched against a traffic barrier so that he could pass without dismounting. This irritated me–in a way that it would not have had he not possessed the air of privilege. I berated myself for feeling judgmental–perhaps the young man was simply shy and lacking in social graces.

However, it got me thinking.

One of the privileges of privilege is a special set of blinders; if you are privileged, you are also unaware of your privilege because it is something you take for granted.

Privilege is autonomic–like breathing, or the beating of your heart. If you are privileged, you don’t give it much thought–again, the privilege of privilege.

Of course, there are so many layers to privilege, something I was reminded of when we walked by a group of construction workers and one of them laughed in a lascivious way. It is a laugh I am all too familiar with–one that connotes a very different sort of privilege.

I gave this more thought. What a privilege it once was to lie on the beach rather than in a CT scanner. And what a privilege it is to lie in a CT scanner rather than on a table in a morgue.

It’s all relative, privilege.


11 responses to “On Privilege

  1. Love it! You nailed it.

  2. Good morning Linnea,
    You continue to share deeply thoughtful insights. I love your sharing. Your ability to teach awareness is profound. I learn overtime you post. Thank you.

    To walk a mile in someone else’s shoes is sometimes the only way people will learn. Others in this world are blessed with the ability to imagine with empathy and do something with this knowledge.

    I think about you often, and pray for the next amazing breakthrough to be released in clinical trials.


  3. correction….overtime is mant to be every time.

  4. I know. But I’d still feel the urge to dope-slap the guy :). A privileged thought.

  5. I liked this. Now every time I am in a scanner, I will be grateful it’s not a slab. Gratitude is not usually on my list in scanner. Trying not to cough is. Fear is. Annoyance is. Pounding heart is. Wishing it was over is.
    Thank you. Something else to think about.

  6. Thanks. I needed this. All of the August 1 Lung Cancer Day postings got to be overwhelming for me. I know how grateful I should be. I have survived more than seven years with this disease, but with all of extra LC attention, I just felt like I am so tired of having lung cancer! And then I immediately know there are others who would trade places with me in a heartbeat.
    Your comments about privilege reminded me of the expression- born on third base but thinks he got there on his own.
    Thanks, Linnea.

  7. Pull close, grasp on, push away, let go. Start over.

  8. This makes me cry. The truth is so deep.

    Sent from my iPad


  9. Very true Linnea, this got me thinking of how I may do a similar type of thing unconsciously. I don’t think that I present myself that way but I imagine it would be others’ awareness of this that might enlighten me. As for your “Personal” privilege a bit frightening but very true and an example of how everything, no matter what, is relative!

  10. Happy to see your writing. You are so right on your thoughts. I learn to forgive and forget other people’s mean things to me. I am a much more happier person when I find God. I am living happy every day. Thank God give me another chance to live and meet so many nice people in my life now.

  11. Thank you! Great insight.

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