What constitutes privilege?

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Good Thursday Evening,

My original title had to with already feeling behind. I am seemingly going backwards (regresando) rather than going forward (avanzando). Part of that is I need to be more disciplined and better organized. Part of it is seeming to need more sleep. Gone or the days of three or four hours and I am good to go. I wish I could still do that as I once could. I guess the fact that it is 4 days later and I am just getting back to this is testament of the difficulties of trying to manage the things on my plate. It is actually the 11th and 13 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the crashing of a fourth plane in the fields of Pennsylvania, the state in which I live again. As many, I do remember that day and I can pretty well remember the feelings of both horror or disbelief and then the anger and sadness that followed. While as many of you know, my time in the United States Marine Corps has made me profoundly patriotic, but that patriotism is nether blind nor limitless. Therefore I do not believe there are no difficulties or inconsistencies in my homeland. I do understand and try to appreciate the discontent that many feel with the actuality that many people are marginalized by the system that certainly serves the privileged and disenfranchises many others. The present title really has to do with this issue and my own struggles when I feel that people are willing to receive things from this country while maligning it at the same time.

Today there was an opportunity to have s conversation about being a citizen of this country. It was with s minority person and, of course, I come to that conversation with my trappings of being white and a veteran. II have listened carefully to the statements and tried to understand the experiences that could create emotions and feelings that I interpret as less than positive about a country I care so deeply about and am generally proud to say I am part of. I wish I could understand more fully and that was part of my questioning today when the conversation occurred. Again, I was required to consider what it means to wake up each morning as a non-WASP and a male at that. I was pushed to see myself as a privileged person. I have written about this in the past. Am I privileged? (I should note that the comments in this parenthetical have been added following additional conversations. The understanding of the use of the word “privileged” seems to be different for the two of us in this conversation. As such it was meant to be neither as pejorative nor directed toward me as personally as I took it. In fact, my co-communicator here notes to be specifically how much the opportunities afforded are both realized and appreciates.) When I think about it critically, I realize I am, but then why is it I do not recognize it on a regular basis? Is it because I am so acculturated in my now upper-middle class lifestyle? Is it because I have been protected from most of what many others deal with everyday? I have had times in my life where I did not know where my next meal was coming from, but I still had a roof over my head. I have had times where I had to sell some of what I had to purchase even by the most essential of items, but I was not homeless. I have really never had to be in a prolonged disadvantaged situation, so I guess I do not understand some things. More importantly, I was reminded it is a “white thing”. That is something I really cannot apologize for . . . I am white and while I know that I am not being asked to apologize, I do feel I am being lumped together at times. While the comments are not meant to be an attack, they are often toned as such (this is where I have left text originally written, but have been told that I have not represented things as accurately as I should. This is left to demonstrate how I misinterpreted the thoughts or feelings). Again as a communication person, I understand that I am interpreting, but when there is an ongoing theme that pushes against the group to which I am ethnically attached, it is hard to not notice that the it includes me. It is a sort of reverse discrimination, even if that is not what is intended. That is why I ask the questions and want to have the conversations. What is also interesting is that it is the very struggle of being the non-white and non-male that provides some of the benefit now experienced. That is not to take away from the other gifts and hard work. It too is a sort of interesting blessing and curse. I also believe the university is using this for their own gain, but there is a mutual benefit. I would not experience such a situation because I am that “white” person. Again, I have learned both the blessing and the curse of that. And it seems I am reminded of it now in ways I had not really imagined. Yet, I can’t argue, nor should I, what someone feels or believes in their heart.

What I know from the day is it created once again in me a sense of sadness; it also troubled my heart in a way because it seems that there is little that can be done. It is not that I am trying to change the feelings or perceptions, but rather I am trying to understand them, but without a better conversation or more conversations I feel incapable of understanding. That is the sadness. I do not disagree with nor believe what is said is wrong, but I want to try to grasp the difficulty more completely. It is because it is not a unique feeling felt by merely one individual, but it is something that is addressed often among many. It seems that the experiment that is this country has somehow lost its sense of direction and purpose. That is something I do believe is certainly true. The politics, and the politicians, of the nation seem to be so self-centered that what happens does privilege the few, but even I feel left out of that. So then I feel like I am pointed at from both directions. I certainly do not fit the one-percent-ers, but I certainly cannot claim to be the marginalized non-white person. So then can I argue I am actually more marginalized? Probably not, but it is certainly feeling that way. What I know at this point is simple. We can either choose to feel marginalized or we can do something to remedyy that. We can choose to believe the deck is stacked against us or we can play the cards the best way we know. I could argue that cards are certainly stacked against me in a number of ways right now, but that is not the way I want to spend my life. I do not want to be angry or disenchanted with what my circumstances are. I refuse to be pessimistic or cynical.

I realize that I do have some reality of privilege, but I will reach out to those who feel less so and try to understand them. I will try to demonstrate that not everyone sees them as “the other”. I will work to accept people for their gifts and see them as gifted. I am privileged to do so. I am merely a person who is  trying to make a difference for those I am blessed enough to have in my life.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

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