Know thy privilege…
For most of us, it’s having a roof over your head, good health and good health insurance, a steady source of income, food in the fridge, access to a dignifying mode of transportation, a vacation or two every year, a lover, husband or wife, caring family and friends…
For many others, it’s having been brought up in a middle class family and above? And of course, having had the ability to maintain that class growing up or even having had the ability to upgrade?
Most of us are aware of those privileges as aspects we are thankful for at some level. We recount them whenever adversity hits our door to make ourselves aware of the many other things that we have going for us as to feel better.
Yet what troubles me about privilege is how it gets totally muted out of many conversations, reactions and situations. I am going to list the main privileges as I personally see them and try to recount a manifestation of each in everyday life:
- Male Privilege: Look at our male dominant culture, from all social and economic classes. Disastrous. Needs a whole set of articles to start doing it justice, so I will focus intently on the middle and upper class manifestation of this privilege. Let’s talk about the crème de la crème of men in our culture and how many are clueless, selfish and/or dismissive as to what women and society as a whole facilitate for them from the day they are born. An obvious Manifestation, is how a husband’s career as the self-claimed default-breadwinner of the household takes over any chance of their wives having one. If the wife does decide to have a career, she’s still responsible for the many family chores, she is also the one that has to pay for the help she hires. Come to a job interview, most are happy to recognize an impressive young woman with many visible accomplishments to her name, yet few recognize the hidden accomplishments and the humongous amount of effort this young woman had to do to become the person in front of them; in comparison to any young man of the same age and caliber. Result, same salary at best, if not significantly lower.
- Class Privilege: Look at the middle class in all its levels, how it looks down into the lower class. Even if many are truly happy to give to charity over Eid and Christmas; yet the judgements never stop. They are lazy, ungrateful, un-whatever. Never recognizing the many other factors that have contributed to their situation -many were downgraded from the middle class over the years due to rising prices and poor overall economic conditions- plus many many others. A Manifestation, a family living in their fully owned house with 2 cars and over 200k in savings at the bank, ask a plumber to fix the bathroom, asked as to what is owed, he says 30 JDs, then he’s immediately asked to lower it to 20 JDs. Why? Just explain to me why! So what if he asks for an extra fee? Oh, and lets not forget the bargaining a woman does to a lady selling her Makdous in the street! Another Manifestation is the K-12 school one had the privilege to attend to - precisely one’s parents had the privilege to pay for, and how it affects their employment. Let alone the university, in Jordan or outside Jordan? If outside, east or west??!! I have to say after 20+ years of work, I had the pleasure of working with all sorts of people, regardless of the education they came to the job with when they started out; the achievers come from all classes and backgrounds.
- Cultural Privilege, How the “chosen ones” treats the rest as they define them. Utter superiority. As if the extra knowledge and the many “imported” stances on issues are truly their own. I talk about right and left and the in-betweens. From the religious superiority, many have absorbed from mainstream religious talk shows and fatwas over social media, to the claims of the left of the utter idiocy of the people of this nation “الشعب المتخلف”. One of the many manifestations, is that we have a two sided recruitment policy of many establishments around the country: those who decline liberal-looking applicants, both men and woman, and those declining to hire religious-looking men and women.
- Racial Privilege, I wish I can talk about white privilege, but it's not manifested much in my everyday life here in Amman -yet one can argue as to the enormous effect white privilege has on all of us in the world. Back to us, are we a racist culture? Many, me included answer with a big yes. Just look at how badly we treat the foreign working class, from Egyptian workers, to the beautiful people from the rich cultures of the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh amongst others. We think we are better, we think we are superior by birth right. Collectively, we pay them peanuts in comparison to the work they get done. We rarely give them time off, we take their passports away -that’s kidnapping by the way- we don’t allow them to go out of the house alone. All of the baseless fear from an imaginary system that is supposed to blame us if they do anything wrong. All from a badly regulated industry that forces them to agree to bad terms then treats & advertises them as merchandise removed from any human dignity they rightfully deserve.
So what do we do with all this privilege? Let's not mute it out of the many conversations and situations we encounter every day for a start and begin being aware of the countless ways some of us got it better. The privileges we were born with, born into and gained through hard work. All the same.