Wednesday, January 02, 2008

What Priviledge Did You Have? meme

I've seen this on several blogs, so here goes.

I'm posting my responses here to an exercise about looking at privilege. Here's the relevant information for you to know:

  • This exercise is based on one developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Indiana State University (see the "looking at privilege" post in the above paragraph, for additional links).
  • The exercise's developers hold the copyright and have given permission for it to be posted, with links, on the Quakers and Social Class blog. They ask that those of us who participate in this blog exercise acknowledge their copyright, which I'm doing here.
  • If you cut-and-paste this exercise on your own blog, please leave a comment on the relevant post, pointing readers to your own post.
  • Copy and paste the list below into your blog (or as a comment in the relevant post), remove my own personal comments, and bold the items that are true for you.
Father went to college
Father finished college (with a break in the middle to join the army for 3 yrs)
Mother went to college
Mother finished college
Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor
Were the same or higher [social?] class than your high school teachers (probably about the same since my father was a teacher and then principal and my mother taught part-time off and on)
Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
Had more than 500 books in your childhood home
Were read children's books by a parent
Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18
The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively [I have no idea how to judge this one--back when I was living at home still? I'm not sure teenage girls are ever portrayed positively.]
Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs*
Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs* (except for some spending money)
Went to a private high school
Went to summer camp (just once, I think)
Had a private tutor before you turned 18
Family vacations involved staying at hotels
Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18
Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
There was original art in your house when you were a child
Had a phone in your room before you turned 18
You and your family lived in a single family house
Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home (well, the mortgage company did, so I'm not sure if this is the right answer)
You had your own room as a child
Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
Had your own TV in your room in High School
Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College
Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16
Went on a cruise with your family
Went on more than one cruise with your family
Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family (not sure how this figures--my parents just didn't talk about money much)

*These two are edited because it was pointed out that the previous wording didn't clearly delineate between people who had their tuition paid for them and people who worked for their college expenses.

In the group exercise which was originally designed for college students, staff and faculty, everyone stands in a line and steps forward if any of these things are true for them.

If we were all in a big room, I would have taken 23 steps forward. How about you? How many would you have taken? How many steps will your kids have taken by the time they're 18 (or how many did they take before they turned 18)?

Notice that each of these are things that were given to you or provided for you rather than things you necessarily earned yourself. The exercise instructions note that just because you've taken a lot of steps doesn't mean that you haven't worked hard to get where you are. But perhaps consider the things you've had handed to you that others didn't have.

To participate in this blog game, copy and paste the above list into your blog, and bold the items that are true for you. If you don't have a blog, feel free to post your responses in the comments.

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9 comments:

Elizabeth M. said...

Thirteen steps for me!

Silvia said...

I have to say that just because I had those "priviledges" doesn't mean we were well-off. My parents' having gone to college was nice but didn't earn them the big bucks. And how many lessons, of what kind, for how long? That one is wide open. Museums--again, how many, how often?

Will Barratt said...

silvia - class is about more than money. Think about social capital, cultural capital, academic capital . . .

We wrote the exercise to increase awareness, and you got that.

Stephanie said...

Thirteen for me also.

Stephanie said...

Make that 14, LOL! I never said I could count :)

piscesgrrl said...

16 steps forward. I never felt spoiled because I didn't get allowance and we had to do a lot of physical work - we hauled firewood, gardened, cleaned our own house, shoveled the driveway, did farm work, etc. My parents worked hard to start their own business so I went from starving early years to very comfortable later years. I had both perspectives then. My parents were very conscious (worried) about us feeling entitled or having things given to us.

Incidentally, however, my kids would take 20 steps forward and we make about 7 TIMES LESS money than my parents. And we know we're very, very fortunate indeed.

So what do we make of THAT?

Shez said...

Very interesting. My results were skewed because some of it just didn't apply to growing up in South Africa. The country only got TV when I was 16!!! No SATS either. South Africa is geographically small, so families drive, rather than fly. My father-in-law, who grew up in the US during the depression, often jokes that he and I share more cultural experiences from our growing up years, than my husband and I do.

I only had 9 steps forward. My kids OTOH are hitting almost all the steps. Yes, we're more affluent than my parents were, but I also think that my children are growing up in a totally different culture and time from me.

Silvia said...

Very good points. I was also thinking that we don't know (or at least I don't) what age range this test was created for. Someone in college right now has grown up in a very different world than many of us hs'ing blogging moms, in our 30s, 40s and more. So someone in their 50s who answers the same questions as a 22 yr old actually probably was more priviledged. And the tv/phone/flying questions would mean something different depending on age, and as you point out, country. And if you only had wood to burn for heat, and you cut down the trees yourselves, that means something entirely different than someone whose parents didn't tell them how much it cost to heat a 5,000 sq ft home with electicity!

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that everyone gets so defensive of their "privilege". The entire point of privilege is the advantage society gives you. It is not shameful or worth defending and saying "yeah, but..." because that is the point! As a white person in society, I get these privileges because I am white and society is structured to my advantage, not because I was born into the top 10% earning bracket. These advantages come to all white people, (generally) regardless of class. Yes, poor white people are absolutely less advantaged than middle class white people. But, poor white people still have structural advantages to non-white poor people despite the common ground that comes from class position. For people to defend their privilege in this way only reinforces privilege. If you continue to draw the boundary of privilege between yourself and the super-rich, you are missing the point.

I DO NOT say this to attack anyone or anyone's comments! I completely understand the personal feeling that comes from having privilege revealed. I myself took 22 steps! And my gut instinct is to say, well, I didn't get this or have that. But privilege goes beyond class. Again, it is a structural advantage and trying to lump ourselves in the more disadvantaged because we can clearly see plenty of people who have far more privilege than we have. Rather, we need to reverse our perspective. We need to see the fact that our families struggled, too, life was very difficult for some of us, and yet we still maintain this privilege.

Again, I do not leave this comment to attack or criticize anyone's comments. I absolutely believe that seeing your disadvantage has a place, but take it the next step and see that despite the disadvantage because of class, there is still advantage in being white.

As a final side note, if you wish to 'compare' answers, it only makes sense to compare your answer to people of a similar age because, as Silvia pointed out, people have very different lives now than even twenty years ago. But, because this is from structural mobility (the whole society changing) you can still legitimately compare results to people in your own age group who would have experienced the same structural mobility.

-If I didn't reveal myself from my rambling, I am working on my PhD in sociology and am damn sure that privilege has helped me get where I am.