My First Run In With Privilege

I always like to think of myself as a socially progressive and conscious being. I’m well educated on the facts of life and how oppression affects each marginalized group. It wasn’t until high school until I realized how internationality affected my life personally. All while I knew what it meant to be a black woman in this world, I realized I had certain privileges that allow me to navigate certain spaces more efficiently. Throughout my life, I was afforded certain luxuries that I didn’t even realize were luxuries.

I never woke up not knowing where my next meal would come from. I always knew I was going to college. I knew what it was like to live in a home with both parents. I was blessed. Everyone in my circle lived a similar lifestyle as well, I was never exposed to much of anything else. Of course, I was told the stories of my mother and father’s upbringing, but it all seemed so distant.

It wasn’t until I went a social justice retreat I realized all the privileges I was afforded. I am able-bodied, upper middle class, educated, heterosexual and I lived in a two-parent home at the time. The privileges I was afforded throughout my life allowed me to live in some sort of a bubble that my parents had no interest in popping.

When I finally made my debut to college, I was in some sort of a culture shock. I had moved from a gated suburban neighborhood in my small city of Little Rock, to Downtown Atlanta in what felt like a 6 by 8 jail cell. Little Rock was a dangerous city, so I knew to keep my head down and mind my business in Atlanta. Clark Atlanta still greeted me with phone snatchings, grand theft auto and other criminal activity I had never been that close too.

Despite everything that was going on, the Atlanta University Center still brought some truly exemplary people in my life that I still stand in awe of. Their experiences have culminated into who they are at their core.

The opportunity to have an intellectual conversation should never be taken lightly, but sometimes we learn so much from regular conversations. One day my friend was talking to me about travel. Ya girl is a travel connoisseur. 

So of course, I was putting in my input. I was a little surprised when the same excitement was not reciprocated. I was then told, “Stephanie, I don’t think you understand where I come from.” Immediately I felt a weight in my chest because he was right. The scary part was I didn’t know if I ever would. I can try to empathize and act like I know what’s it like, but I don’t. I never will.

I had come face to face with my privilege right at that moment. I didn’t want to feel ashamed, but I did. I didn’t know why. I knew my parents worked extremely hard to give me the life they felt I deserved, and that’s the goal of most people. Believe it or not, It took me a long time to be proud of the lifestyle my parents have given me. Now that I’m past that phase. I have to learn to grow in empathy and become even more understanding of the world around me. Otherwise, I’d be doing myself and more importantly others a disservice. How am I supposed to serve and uplift a community I don’t understand? I cant. I am grateful for the clarity the AUC, my colleagues and my upbringing have given me about the world. Now, I just want to make my mark on it in the most impactful way possible.