There are things that happen in our life that we have no control over. We play a game of slots on Fair Go slots. We can’t control the final outcome of the slots. We might win the big jackpot, or we might not. It is random. There is nothing that we can do or not do to change the outcome.
If a person is born with a physical quality, like the color of a person’s skin, it can’t be changed. If a person is born with physical issues, for example, I was born with a dead muscle in my eye, again, it is not something that can be changed. It just is what it is.
But speaking as somebody who was born with a physical issue of a dead muscle in my eye, which caused me to have no depth perceptions … and my dreams of becoming a bus driver are forever gone … do I consider people who have depth perception to have “privilege” because they can be bus drivers and I cannot be a bus driver? No.
I have thought about this long and hard because joking aside, my dead muscle does not just affect my driving abilities (including regular day-to-day driving), but it also affects reading. For “regular” people, a person, when reading for long periods of time, your eyes change from one eye to the other eye, without you even realizing it is happening. It just happens automatically, the same way that your breathing just happens automatically. When your body can’t do that, your eyes have no ability to rest, which affects reading, which affects concentration, etc.
But I have also discovered something else, I am an awesome debugging programmer and software tester. Due to my eye muscle issue, I read slowly. But reading slowly is exactly what is needed when debugging software code or testing software. So I have a weakness in one area, which is a strength in another area. At the end of the day, it means that I have the ability to do “an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.”
During my life, I have met a lot of people who have physical disabilities of one form or another. In almost every person that I have met, if you pay attention, you notice that although they have a weakness in one area, they have a strength in another area.
So what is the key for a person who has “issues” being successful? It is learning to take advantage of your strengths in order to compensate for your weaknesses.
You even see that with people who have Down Syndrome. They may not be the “smartest” people in the world, but they definitely have gifts they give to the world, and especially to the people who know them.
But the reason I wanted to write this article, was to respond to a pamphlet that was left in a Home Depot break room in Canada. The Home Depot corporate head said that it was not produced by them.
What is privilege, according to this pamphlet? A special benefit or advantage that may be earned or unearned.
Social privilege is a special, unearned advantage or entitlement, used to one’s own benefit or the detriment of others. These groups can be advantaged based on social class, age, disability, ethnic or racial category, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and religion.
White privilege is a societal privilege that benefits white people beyond what is commonly experienced by people of color under the same social, political, and economic circumstances.
The pamphlet then goes on to explain what these privileges look like:
- White privilege is that you are confident that the police are there to protect you. Question: Regardless of skin color, if you are not breaking the law, why would you think that the police are not there to protect you?
- Able-bodied privilege is you don’t have to worry about how to get into a store. Question: There was a period in time when there were no elevators and there were no ramps, but due to the Americans with Disabilities Act, except in some really old buildings, this is not an issue. But then, parents with small children that use a stroller have the same issues.
- Class privilege is when you were growing up, college was an expectation, not a dream. Question: When I was growing up, it was my parents who instilled that expectation. Now that I am a parent, I am the one who instills that expectation into my children.
If we are talking about paying for college, there is ROTC (for most people), Pell grants (for people who come from poor families), Student Loans, Community College (inexpensive college while living at home), and Co-op programs (alternate between working and going to school to reduce costs). There are orphans who need to support younger siblings, but that is a different situation.
- Heterosexual privilege is that you don’t have to explain to anybody that your spouse is of the same sex. This is 2022. Even if a person does not agree with a person’s life choice, they understand it. Did the conversation last more than 2 minutes?
- Christian privilege is that you expect time off for your religious holiday. This one I do not understand. I am Jewish. Throughout my whole adult life, I have taken off time from work for my religious holidays. A person cannot be fired due to that in 2022. And if a person is expected to work on weekends, that is usually talked about during an interview.
No different than talking about if a person is expected to work late evening, early morning, middle of the night, etc. There was only one time in my adult life when this became an issue. My manager made a comment about “lying on a timecard” in relation to taking time off for religious holidays. I walked away from the job.
On the flip side, I had one employer who did not give time off for any holiday or personal days or sick days or vacation days. Instead, he gave people X number of days off. He did not care why you took a day off. As far as the boss was concerned, it was a day off and you would not be doing work on that day.
I can also talk about how once when I was a teenager working in a grocery store, 90% of the workers asked for the day off for Halloween. So the boss settled it, the boss gave off for anybody who did not ask for Halloween off. So what privilege is that?
- Cisgender privilege is that you can use any bathroom without stares or fear. Again, I am not sure what I think about this. A woman who goes into a public bathroom that has a person who looks like a woman and says that they are a woman, but yet, is still physically attracted to women? Wouldn’t that just be changing the fear to biological women? Not all trans people are still sexually attracted to people of their original gender. So there is no one size fits all solution.
The pamphlet also has a comic with the following conversation:
One: Talking about my privilege makes me very uncomfortable.
Two: I get that. Can I ask why it is unsettling?
One: Well, it is not like I can give away my privilege.
Two: Do you share the benefits of my privilege?
One: I never thought about it.
Two: Why don’t we take time and see what talents you can share.
But yet, the rest of the pamphlet does not explain what exactly does it mean to “share the benefits of my privilege”.
Are we talking about “volunteering at a local library to teach non-English speakers to speak English”?
Are we talking about giving up half your salary to somebody else?
If it is the second one, does this whole “white privilege” boil down to money? You have money, and I do not have as much money as you do, so therefore you have to give me some of your money, because I am non-white, homosexual, physical disability, trans, or have a learning disability?
If it is the first, then does that mean that non-white people, trans people, homosexual people, physically disabled people, or learning disabled people don’t have any talents to share?
As a person who has an issue, dead muscle in my eye, I have a problem with the term “privilege”. The whole conversation implies that another person has something that I can never have, that is out of my reach. I don’t feel that way. I never felt that way. And I do not believe I ever will feel that way.
Yes, things would be easier if I did not have vision problems and I did not affect my driving skills (or lack of driving skills). I would not have to check out public transportation options for every place to want to live in or every job I want to do.
But then I also check out are there sidewalks, street lights, public parks and playgrounds, used needles lying on the ground, local schools, and a bunch of other factors that almost everybody checks out in one way or another when they also think about where they are going to live or what job they are going to take.
I also hate the way that I look in pictures because pictures capture my lazy eye.
And on top of that, when I was 5, I had a lump on my throat, and my vocal cords were damaged during the surgery to remove them. I also hate the way my voice sounds in records, so I almost never do an audio recording of my voice.
When I was a child, kids were cruel. They made comments about my voice, and it was hurtful, especially when it was siblings who did it. Once I went to college and did jobs, people grew up. Even if they noticed those issues, they were mature enough to not say something.
Do my kids friends sometimes make comments? Yes, because they do not have enough life experiences to understand. But at the end of the day, it has nothing to do with privilege. It is genetics. And either one believes that genetics are the result of randomness or from God, it is what it is and it cannot be changed.
You are who you are, and the only thing that you can do is to be the best you that you can possibly be. Once you start to think in terms of this person (or group of people) having the privilege and I don’t have the same priviledge, you are giving power to something that does not exist.
To quote Dr. Suess …
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
“I’m afraid that sometimes you’ll play lonely games too. Games you can’t win ’cause you’ll play against you.”
“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains.”
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.”
“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.”
So if you don’t want to believe me, at least believe Dr. Seuss.