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.