Let’s talk about privilege.
There are so many types of privilege: religious, physical, and socioeconomic – I’m going to focus on socioeconomic today, but I’m sure I’ll circle back to the others eventually.
This is the type of privilege that Canadians are steeped in. I know that, in Canada, we like to think of ourselves as a caste-less, class-less society. A society where the little guy has just as much opportunity as the one born into a higher class.
This is not the fucking case.
Our wage gaps are increasing, income inequality is continuing to grow, low income workers are being pushed further to the margins with zero hope of ever being able to earn as much as their higher class peers. In the past 20 years, the rich have gotten richer, and the poor have only gotten more poor.
For some reason, any time I bring this up, countless people get offended that I have dared to somehow trivialize the amount of work they have put into getting where they are. As if, my saying that other people don’t really have the chance is a direct attack on them. As if, at the very mention that maybe life threw them a bit of lucky draw, they raise their hackles as if I have attacked their very person. That is not the case.
I am simply tired of the snarky rhetoric that is flung at the recipients of welfare. The overused mantra of, “Well, I did it, so why can’t you?” The constant turning down of noses at the homeless, the destitute, and those who are financially struggling.
What I am simply pointing out is that if you start at a lower rung on the ladder – you will never reach the height that a person with the same amount of work ethic, who starts at a higher rung, will reach.
What I am simply trying to champion, is the person who never gets championed.
The one who isn’t lazy or untalented, but just can’t get ahead.
The discouraged kid who has put hundreds of resumes out, but doesn’t get the job because where are his extracurricular activities?
I’m not saying there aren’t people who can do it. There are kids who never had a single music lesson and manage to weasel their way into an orchestra (but it’ll be a lot harder for them then the kid who was streamlined into Juilliard because the money, connections, and outside influence were there.)
There are kids who never got to play a day of soccer, and still make the varsity team as a walk on, (But I can guarantee you that it was a harder road than the kids whose moms took them to soccer three times a week, met the coaches, and were scouted.)
It is a given that some people will have the talent, drive, or stamina to jump some rungs, but outliers are not a representation of the norm, and we shouldn’t be looking at them to give an example of a classless society with opportunity for everyone.
This is so hard to realize. Especially if you are on that higher rung, looking down, yelling at them, “Why can’t you get here too?” I remember sitting in my high school class, one of the first outside of the homeschooling/ tiny private school I had grown up in, and suddenly realizing that social groups were a real thing. That low income kids hung out with low income kids. That privileged kids were generally surrounded by other privileged kids.
I never saw myself as poor, in fact, I didn’t even realize until I saw the way the other kids lived that there was anything different in my life. Sports were things I paid for, and I always felt guilty, or ashamed if I needed to ask my parents for anything. School trips involved us petitioning the school board for grants because my parents simply couldn’t afford for us to go on them. We shopped for uniforms out of a pile that last year’s kids had thrown away. We asked before we ate anything in the house.
My parents raised 5 kids on a combined income of 15-25,000 dollars a year, but they were special. On the last trip I took home, I found that my dad had made 6,000 gross income in the previous year. They still have two kids at home. I’m not here to throw a pity party, or throw my hands up in the air with,” Woe is me, the world has thrown me a hard lot and that’s why I can’t get ahead!” My parents did an amazing job, and I have done very well for myself. I’m happy, and proud of the choices I am making and continuing to make. This isn’t for myself that I am arguing. Somehow, my parents managed to raise us with the confidence and idea that we were no different than any one else.
But my parents? They were lying.
Because the rest of Canada, and the world, doesn’t feel this way at all.
And there are statistics to prove it.
A study published in the Cambridge University Press focused on income levels in correlation to IQ. It found that “household income predicted IQ and achievement, as well as externalizing problems and social competence.” (1)
FURTHERMORE, new study results are coming to light recently that give credence to the idea that differences in income and education within families is directly correlated to brain development.
Did you hear that? The income level in which you grow up in has an actual affect on your physiological development.
The team also found a significant correlation between cortical surface area and family income levels, which ranged from less than $5000 per year to more than $300,000. This was not a linear correlation, however. Instead, at the very lowest income levels, each incremental increase in income led to relatively greater increases in cortical surface area, whereas the influence of income tended to level off at higher levels. Nevertheless, Noble and Sowell say, the difference between lower and higher incomes is dramatic: Children from families making $25,000 per year or less have cortical surface areas roughly 6% smaller than those making more than $150,000. (2)
That’s huge. Isn’t it?
I don’t understand why people can’t simply be thankful for the privilege while still recognizing that it is a very real thing. I am thankful for the privilege of being born in Canada and the advantages that it entails. I am thankful that I was born and raised in a loving, intact family. I am thankful that I had the privilege of running around in the country as a wild, woods child for the first 15 years of my life. I am thankful for the privilege of a father who taught me the things I wanted to be taught and not immediately placing me in the pigeon hole that my gender may have insisted on.
Understand, that when I am calling the above median earners privileged, I am not trying to tear them down in any way, I fully believe that the majority are hard working, deserving people.
What I also believe, however, is that the majority of people who are stuck in the cycle of low income, low socio-economic status, are just as hard working and deserving – they’ve just been lacking the opportunity that your privilege gave you.