On privilege

On privilege

 

My daughter was being bullied, so off to the teacher I went.

 

 

I explained that kid X, I’ll call her Arachne, was picking on my child.

 

“Oh, you have to cut her some slack,” the teacher said, “She has had such a hard time at home.”

 

“Hard time at home?” I was incredulous.  “My daughter had her father die when she was five. I’m her sole support.  She hasn’t had it easy.”

 

“Oh,” said the teacher, “But your child has so many advantages. You are a LIBRARIAN.”

 

That fact was somehow supposed to even everything out in the privilege wars.  The bully kid has 2 living parents and all the advantages that can provide. But I work in a library, so there ya go.

 

Like any single, custodial parent, I live in fear of the days I am sick because there is no other person to care for my child. Like single parents, cubed. I have no in-laws or parents who can help with child care.

If my child is sick, I miss a minimum of two days of work because the school (with good reason) wants a whole fever-free day before sending the child back to her classmates.

 

 

On the other hand, I do have a steady job with regular hours, a job which is inside and probably will not make me sick.  I have friends that are unemployed or under-employed, and the world punishes them for being poor.

 

Once I was at a theme park with another single mother, who was, at the time, unemployed. A drawing held there for a free vacation was only available to me, not her, because only those with steady jobs could enter the drawing. But that’s so not fair—I could have afforded a vacation more easily than she could have in the first place, because I had a job. So my being privileged led to more privilege.

It is unlikely that the child of an unemployed mother will travel as much by the end of High School as my child already has. Privilege has made it so the system sends me on a lot of vacations, that other people probably need more.

 

A few streets over lives a friend of mine from elementary school. She also has one daughter. That daughter has the advantage of two educated, employed parents, one set of healthy, nearby grandparents.  The parents never had to pay for child care, and have two incomes.

 

 No matter how hard I work, my child will never have the advantages of the kid a few streets over.  I’ll call her Clio.

 

And, no matter how hard my child works, she will never have the financial advantages of a child of two educated, working parents who don’t have to pay for child care have.  Clio goes to Europe a lot with her language teacher parent, and the house is getting an addition to house the kid’s art and music studio.

 

Clio is a smart, lovely, kind person. I don’t begrudge her her wealth, and it is wonderful that her parents have the resources to build a studio and nurture her talents—at which she works very hard.

 

But a child innately as talented as Clio who lacks Clio’s money and family will never catch up.

 

Of course you do hear of the occasional rise from poverty, a combination of luck and work. These stories generally come with a great emotional price. Maria Callas was able to work so hard on her music essentially because she just didn’t have any friends.

If you are rich, you can have talent and a social life.  If you are poor, you have to choose.

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