What It's Like to Be a Privileged Minority

I think of life as an ordered system seen through the lens of privilege and inequality.  I see privilege and inequality on a first-hand basis and am aware of it on a greater scale that has yet to truly affect me personally.  As a sociology major at Bates College, I learn and come to understand many different aspects of society on various levels. I am drawn to and intrigued by the struggle to comprehend life’s hard and usually unanswerable questions.  They way people think and the way people understand their own life is so interesting to dig into. Not only is grasping life’s hard qualities riveting, it is also extremely important. Living the life afforded me and being who I am has taught me and made me realize my privilege, and where I stand in today’s society.

I have been growing up in a mostly all white, wealthy community, which tends be overwhelming or even boring at times.  I have quickly adapted to the “white ways” of my small town and have acknowledged that I am seen as “inferior” or at least “different” to some of my peers.  However, because my parents are white I have actually lived the way most white people live, but without even coming close to looking the part. I identify with the white, suburban culture, and yet am an outsider too.  I was adopted from the Philippines and arrived in Maine when I was just eleven months old, so technically I am an immigrant.  Originating from a third-world country and moving up the ladder into the top one percent in the world gave me a leg up, to say the very least.  It was when I was about ten years old that I started to fully understand my privilege and how much of a blessing it is to be adopted and live in Maine with a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, and copious amounts of food just at the pull of a refrigerator door.  I am a Filipino female living in a white man’s world. That means lots of advantages for sure, but there are downsides too.

I am one of the thirteen people I know from my home town of who is not white.  I can count my non-white friends on just one hand and can count the people I know who voted for Donald J. Trump on two.  This is what is wrong with this town’s society and is somehow still viewed as normal and “okay”. When I think about my life’s parameters, I could say that the social construct that has affected me most is an economic institution, because at its heart that is what white suburbia in Maine is.  But I have to say that I never felt the prick of an institution in my life as fiercely as I have since the Trump presidency. Because of that, I will have to say that the presidential term, a political institution, has had the greatest impact on me.

By the time I was a senior in high school, I couldn’t go a whole day without hearing someone say something either racially incorrect and ignorant or the eerie words “I’m voting for Trump!”  Listening to it frequently got old very fast, and being exposed sometimes to hateful comments that I won’t bother to share was something else. I had some friends who would say things such as “I support the wall and don’t want immigrants in the United States,” and “the wage gap is not a big problem.”  As a female immigrant, it felt like a slap in the face. I found it hard to accept that there are people out there that stand against everything I am. And I realized I don’t have to go far to find people who think the total opposite of what I believe.

Ethnocentrism has gone too far in the wrong direction.  People judge other cultures harshly and think their culture is the “right” culture.  Being a female immigrant is something I cherish because it takes only the strongest to survive in the shoes of the unequal.  Luckily, I haven’t experienced major racial injustice, but that’s because I've stayed within the boundaries of my small, mostly liberal town.  I say it is mostly liberal, because despite the vociferous Trump fans, they are statistically not the majority.  For example, President Obama won the town in the past two presidential elections. But now that I am at the point in my life where I am not viewed with white parents in mind, people will be quicker to judge.  What I fear has been a brush with racism and sexism in my town has awoken me to the possibility of worse.  The presidency of Donald Trump has brought out the worst in so many people.

Coming from an upper class background, I attended one of the best high schools in the country.  You would think everyone would be educated enough to know that racial injustice is a crucial problem and that Trump wouldn’t even be a last resort for a president.  But that is not the case. There are those who embraced him and his elitism.  My high school shaped me into something I am proud of.  It was a rigorous school with high academic standards and difficult social standards too.  Wearing the right clothes and popularity created its own stratifications of an economic nature.  I learned through adversity and grew from acknowledgement of others’ ignorance.  Trump's rise made me aware of so much that I had let wash over me before.  If I wasn’t brought up in a prosperous class, I wouldn’t have the opportunities I have today and I never would have gotten here, receiving a top-notch education.  I also would have experienced a lot more diversity elsewhere, and maybe a lot more judgment. It is hard to say.

With everything that I am, my class, race, and gender all play a role in the sociological imagination.  My basic qualities that make up who I am impact the people around me and have both constrained me and enabled me.  Maybe around my senior year in high school I was ready for some realizations about myself, who I am and what I believe.  I was also ready to see the societal institutions I was brought up in for what they are. The economic institution that is an upper class suburb is a help and a hindrance.  Certainly the Trump presidency brought much of this to a head for me. It showed me who the people around me were, what their values were, and what they thought of me. All that made me take a harder look at myself.  The political institution of the presidential election has had a huge influence on society, on me, and on the way I view the societal institutions I am surrounded by. Anything that makes me look harder at myself and my world is a good thing in the end.  I hope.

 

Image courtesy of Unsplash.