Must Be the Money

The 20s are all about examining all the identities you hold. Identities help guide how a vast majority of our experiences go. People often see us and they assume either the best or worst of us based on which identities they think we hold. A lot of identities may appear to be visible but most preconceived notions of how someone presents an identity are based on stereotypes which do no one any good. People are more than stereotypes. It's not that stereotypes are always wrong, it's that they don't tell the whole story. Time to check some privilege, it must be the money.

*This to everyone who believes the "pull yourself up by your boostraps" mentality. We've pulled ourselves up and yet you still won't walk with us #damn

There have been so many times where I've written about race, color and racism in my life before and during my college years. The funny thing about it is every other identity I hold is dominant. Like literally every other one. I'm an average-sized, cisgender, heterosexual, temporarily able-bodied, naturalized citizen, upper-middle class male. It if wasn't for my racial & ethnic minority backgrounds I would be the epitome of privilege. Why then do I find myself discussing the oppression I've experienced because of my racial identity, because it's the most salient to me most often. It's something I deal with on a daily basis and it's the only minority identity I hold (if we're taking identities at face value; masculinity is a conversation for another time). I'm going to say something radical. What happens when you're denied the privileges you unfairly are given because of a minority identity? Do you still have privilege if you seemingly never get to use it? How can this be a thing? Who gets to determine who's in group and out group in power and social dominance? Oh it's going to get good up in here. Ready to take it all the way there. It must be the money.

Every time someone brings up white privilege someone (usually white) is quick to respond with "class privilege." Usually I just dismissed the rebuttal as denial from guilt or just plain ignorance but never actually stopped to think about it. Has class privilege replaced racial privileges? Sorry if you thought I was going somewhere else, but hell to the no. Here's why. You see that second to last identity I listed, the upper-middle class one, please take note of how easy it is to overlook it. I'll share some of my favorite incident stories where if we're following class privilege logic I should be waltzing right through life but instead found myself still being targeted. I remember the first time my family walked into a Mercedes-Benz Dealership. Usually employees swoop down to grab customers but we walked around for a good 10 minutes before anyone, mind you it was a black man who came first, introduced themselves to us. That same day we took home an $80K SUV; the next week, my dad and I went back got an $100K sedan as well. A few months later he picked up a $70K work car that he traded up at $120K convertible. All the employees now run to open the doors for us whenever we enter and they missed out on one of the largest and most recurring commissions the dealership has seen in a long while. It's funny because of the color our skin our social class is assumed to be low and our financial stability questioned. My mom told me this story of her going to the grocery store, doing the usual $150-$225 round of food for the week (that's not normal, I'm aware) and she was in line to pay for it when the woman behind her had the nerve to ask, "Are you sure you can afford all that?" She was wearing a tattered pink jumpsuit and had rollers in her hair. My mom replied, "Ma'am, why would I take put all these items in my cart if I wasn't going to be able to pay for them. Think before you speak and even better yet, keep your small-minded thoughts to yourself. Good day." A few weeks later at the same story a white woman was trying to buy hot dogs, bread and soda and didn't have enough money and would have to put the hot dogs back. My mom jumped out of line and paid for her and she noticed the woman's entire expression went from thankful to embarrassed when she realized my mother was black. She muttered a thank you and nearly broke into a run as she trotted away. Really lady, you have no reason to be beside yourself and being aided by a person of color has you all shook up? Must be the money.

Two more and I'll get on it with it. In college my first year, my floor one night was google searching to show one another where we lived. When it was my turn I typed in my address and did the street view to show people my house and there were multiple people who wouldn't, no rather couldn't, comprehend that's where I actually lived. They asked, do you share it with another family or are you renting it among other things. I was like, do you share you home with other people - it's a single family home. I had to show them a picture of standing outside my own house to prove it was mine. Apparently it's hard to swallow that black people can be well off. Last but not least is my dad, who's a general practitioner at an urgent care. When he's working he's the only doctor there. On average he sees 80-90 patients at day (record is 120) and is well known for his impeccable work and above and beyond bedside manner. The amount of times he's had white people (this is a step down emergency room mid you) refuse his services and storm out because they didn't want to be touched by a black man. He was standing behind the front desk one time and had a white man ask him if the doctor was any good. He responded, "I think I do my job well." The man was taken aback and said, "Really, you're the one everyone has been raving about. How did you get this job? How much do you make?". It's common courtesy that you never ask someone how much they make, right, or maybe if you're black you're not entitled to your privacy. Let me remind you not is my dad wearing a white coat with him name embroidered on it, but he has a stethoscope around his neck - like can you not? I read a quote somewhere that said "To be white is to have the best of your assumed at all times" and looking back, I can see the truth in it. Every context clue of our lives points to say that we're a well to do family, cars, clothes, house and even speech (that's a problematic one but I'll let it slide) and yet people not only cannot fathom our existence (plus the fact that we didn't make it through drugs or rap music) but cannot see anything other than our skin color. Must that the money just isn't enough.

With all that being said it'd be easy to say that my point is that racial privilege trumps class privilege, but that's not necessarily true. Everyone has unique INDIVIDUAL experiences so there's no comparison or universal fact of the matter. I will say however my friends who are people of color and come from affluent backgrounds have definitely experienced similar instances. I will say something even more bold. Just because I have some privileges denied does not mean I deserve them in the first place. Even if I don't necessarily reap the benefits of an identity, does not mean I still don't have identity. The advantages are there whether I get to use them or not, that's the whole point. There certain stores and restaurants that are made for people specifically of my social class, I have access to people, resources and events that most people do not, and most of all I see myself represented in all facets of the media most often. I wear all name brand clothes, I can travel, I have a cellphone, I can eat culturally diverse foods, I have my own room, I can drive and the list goes on and on. No matter what, at the end of the day I still have my social class (yes it's determined by my parents until I strike out on my own; that's a gift by itself) even if other people don't believe it. Privileges entail that one group gets something that another is denied and that in and of itself is unfair when based on arbitrary identities like social class. Society is telling me that someone has less value as a PERSON because their bank accounts have fewer zeroes, they might have a bad credit score, or they may live paycheck to paycheck? That's ridiculous. Am I a better person because money wasn't a factor in choosing my college, can ask my parents for money as I need it, have never worked a day in my life ... hell to the no. In fact, that makes me nothing more than privileged. Lucky in the card shuffle of life. People should not be valued because of the content of their wallet but of the content of their character, plain and simple, that's what it means to be human or have we forgotten? Check your privilege with your dominant identities ... all of them and be aware of the context of how you show up with them lest you continue to perpetuate oppressive systems. We all have to do it daily and unlearn our dismissive behaviors towards people with differences, especially those traditionally excluded from the mainstream narrative.

My blog post question for the day is ... what do you think of the notion of class privilege replacing white privilege? The notion is bunk to a certain extent, in my experience, even white people of lower socioeconomic status are still given the benefit of the doubt, especially when it comes to finances, and that makes them socially above people of color (even us affluent ones).


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