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I’m belatedly joining the bandwagon. Apparently, there’s a training exercise that was developed for the classroom, but that has made its rounds through blogworld… and I completely missed it until now. And it’s actually rather coincidental – I just finished reading “Michelle” (which I highly recommend, by the way) and there was a reference that confused me.

In the early 90’s, Michelle Obama was hired as the executive director of Public Allies, a nonprofit group that worked to recruit and train young people to work in the nonprofit sector. One of the participants described how during one of the awareness training exercises, she “ended up with her back against the wall.” I had no idea what she was talking about, outside the figurative nature of the phrase… and then tonight, it all came together.

I came across this post on Karen’s blog, which led me to the original list in this post. The instructions for the classroom exercise is to take a step forward for each item that is in your experience. In the classroom setting, the instructor would theoretically moderate the discussion to encourage the participants to interact and honestly discuss their various positions in the “game.” In blogworld, however, the items that apply to you are bolded, which obviously doesn’t allow interaction.

And this blog post makes an excellent point… the privilege of blog participants is already implied simply by the fact that they’re “sitting at their computers with the leisure time to participate in such exercises.”

I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever, not even the smallest glimmer, that I am privileged. And I believe that, all that Myers-Briggs psycho-babble aside, much of my annoyance with the people knocking on my door asking for money is related to my privilege and the fact that I take much, so very much, for granted.

If your father went to college
If your father finished college
If your mother went to college
If your mother finished college
If you have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.
If you were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
If you had a computer at home
If you had your own computer at home
If you had more than 50 books at home
If you had more than 500 books at home
If you were read children’s books by a parent
If you ever had lessons of any kind
If you had more than two kinds of lessons
If the people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
If you had a credit card with your name on it
If you have less than $5000 in student loans
If you have no student loans
If you went to a private high school
If you went to summer camp
If you had a private tutor
If you have been to Europe
If your family vacations involved staying at hotels
If all of your clothing has been new and bought at the mall
If your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
If there was original art in your house
If you had a phone in your room
If you lived in a single family house
If your parents owned their own house or apartment
If you had your own room
If you participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
If you had your own cell phone in High School
If you had your own TV in your room in High School
If you opened a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College
If you have ever flown anywhere on a commercial airline
If you ever went on a cruise with your family
If your parents took you to museums and art galleries
If you were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

Now I’m fully aware that no list on earth can resolve class or race problems. And I’m also aware that because I was born into a white, American, middle-class family with married parents who, although they had vast financial problems, somehow always made it work, I’ll probably never be able to fully grasp what it feels like to NOT be born into a family like mine. But I want to work on myself. I do. I want my children to be able to say “yes” to more of the statements than I did, but I also want them to realize that it’s something to be grateful for. I want them to feel empathy AND sympathy for those who have fewer bolded statements on the list than they do. I want them to feel loved and secure, but not entitled.

I know that there are many people out there with much bigger, much smarter thoughts than me. This post is simplistic and small-minded in so many ways… I feel overwhelmed when I consider the state of our country, our environment, our world. I guess it’s easier, more attainable, for me to focus on the tiny slice over which I have some semblance of control. It’s a tiny, insignificant contribution that probably makes no difference at all in the big scheme of things. But as I used to tell Mama when I would correct her use of words that had been replaced yet again, and she would complain about the “political correctness” of everything these days…  If I (or my children) can avoid ostracizing, offending, or hurting even one person, aren’t all the insignificant self-improvement attempts worth it?

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