Checking My Privilege
Recently, I watched this video on YouTube the other day where a bunch of high school kids was told to race for a hundred dollars, but the catch was that some people would be given a head start in the race based on whether they answered yes to some of the questions asked. The video has got me to basically think a lot about my life so far and my general thoughts on the idea of privilege.
I know that there have been a lot of things that I am privileged for and there are many things where I am not privileged in. A sum of all of those has made me ponder more about where am I in life and what do I want to do. To be fair, I know that I am not recognizing some things in my life, so I apologize if I seem to miss out on that.
Where I am Privileged
- My parents pay my massive international tuition at the University of Waterloo and sometimes even my rent
- Co-op at UW has given me the advantage to network and thus work with some amazing companies in Canada and meet and learn from some of the brightest people
- I have a Singaporean passport and hence I would not have to worry about applying for a visa, ever
- I have established a good credit score and I have a line of cash to request from if in case I feel low on cash
Where I am Not Privileged
- I live very far away from my family currently, and whilst I can usually go back home for Christmas, I cannot be back home for week-long or weekend-long holidays such as Thanksgiving, Reading Weeks and whatnot. I miss home-cooked food
- I always consciously think about my chances of being randomly checked by security at airports just because of my skin color, and passport power does not come into play. I have been grilled by airport staff from Australia and sometimes the TSA and I sometimes fear to travel to Australia based on the treatment I got at the airport.
- I was forced to start university two years after high school graduation because of Singapore’s conscription laws. I may not have liked my experiences as much, but I did learn a lot of life skills from that experience. But still, I started the first year of university when I was 21, I almost was not granted admission to UW because I had to write a justification essay about why I am starting university late, and more.
At the end of the day, I am very lucky to have gotten some experiences and am kind of unlucky in some aspects. But ideally, I wanna be sure that I am lucky and privileged in many aspects of my life as possible.
What I did learn that some things my parents and the world have been able to provide to me are some things I want to step back and acknowledge. Sometimes we fail to recognize that we are relatively ahead in life in some ways because of the people around us, and it is not always ourselves alone that has made us get ahead in life. So if you ever feel privileged in life in any moment, take a step back and think who has helped you get to where you are and do not forget to acknowledge them for helping you out this far. Also, recognize someone who isn’t as privileged as you and working harder than you and find a way to help them if you can using your privilege.
For moments where I do not feel privileged, my instinctive reaction is to hate the world for that. Many times I felt like I wanted to be mean to every customs officers or airport staff who have treated me badly, and wished I found a way to get them fired. Same goes for anyone else who really have found a way to make me feel useless and whatnot at some point in time. However, I realize that I sometimes make others feel the way that I have felt myself, whether it was my intention to or not. And as such, I realized that purely hating someone and acting out of that hate does not accomplish anything.
Instead, I feel that working through your lack of privilege and ensuring that a future generation would never have to go through the same lack of privilege you have encountered is something you should strive for. I have seen my dad work hard from being the first ever Indian Vice President at a Norwegian-based international shipping company after starting out as just a regular project manager, and I have seen many others in my life go on to achieve great things. Did they have to work a lot harder than someone else who was privileged, yes? But they got far from peddling hard, and they developed a stellar work ethic that they still maintain once they were able to get fair in life.
Thus, in short, I see privilege as a bonus given to us in life and a lack of privilege as a fuel to help me develop a stronger work ethic. Recognize how these bonuses came to us, and work through a lack of bonuses in your life no matter what to make sure you could one day help someone out with a bonus in life.