Over the past few months I have been more active on online social media such as the Kinjaverse, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc… And have noticed a growing trend of white males being told to check their privilege. The basis for this remark? One or two sentences being written by someone. I have been told this on numerous occasions by multiple people.
Now this made me ask myself, what is privilege and how do I check it? I did a little research and I found out this phrase was invented in 2006 on a social justice blog to describe the advantage Caucasian males have in American society. Now this fact made me wonder why I was being told this. Yes I am white, Yes I am male, but no I am not privileged.
My family Emigrated to the US in the 1890s from a small village in a remote region of Poland during the Pogroms. My family fled their home for a better life in the US in an effort to escape an oppressive regime. My mother remembers her grandmother telling stories from her childhood of how she was afraid she would be killed if she wasn't home before dark.
My family came here with nothing, they formed their own businesses. My family owned pawnshops, and later were furniture wholesalers. Even in 1950s America it was hard. My mom was the first in her family to go to college, let alone earn a masters degree. But as a child she had it rough.
Her parents earned just enough to buy a small house in a nice, up and coming neighborhood. They did this by both my grandmother and grandfather working. By day, my grandmother was a secretary at the Russ Berry stuffed animal company and by night she delivered furniture for my grandfather's furniture business. They were both the children of immigrants and didn't have very good English, they were lucky to be able to graduate high school. They didn't have college degrees, they worked hard for what they had. The neighborhood they lived in even had a pool! But jews weren't allowed to swim in it, the management feared that jews would make the pool dirty. Even in the 70s this went on, it wasn't until the time I came around that the ban was lifted. For 40 years jews weren't allowed to swim in their own neighborhood pool, a pool that was free to everyone else with no charge for admission.
This "work hard" mentality transferred to how my parents raised me. I never got an allowance, I had to work for everything I have. Even before I could work, I had to save up my money from where ever it came from for anything I wanted. I needed a computer for school? That came out of my birthday money. Cell phone? Out of my Hanukkah cash. I was handed nothing in life. Even with my medical set backs I was not given any breaks.
I have multiple life-threatening medical conditions. I take more pills and shots daily than someone three times my age. I have had 9 Colonoscopies, my first was when I was 7 years old. I have 7 life threatening food allergies, allergies that make day to day life a struggle. I cant eat out anywhere, I cant kiss my girlfriend without worrying she ate something I was allergic to. Dating is near impossible, social outings with friends too. I have been put on oxygen for my asthma for prolonged periods of time as a child, and am 100% growth hormone deficient. Without daily hormone injections I wouldn't have even reached 4'11".
Am I lucky to have parents who care about me? Yes. Am I lucky to have a team of doctors that were able to figure out what was wrong with me? Yes, I am in numerous medical journals for peculiar medical afflictions, I didn't make it easy for them. But am I privileged? I don't think so.
I have many luxuries in life, but all of them either I worked for or my family did before me. I was handed nothing in life, If I have any undeserved advantages I didn't take advantage of them. Next time you go to ask someone to "Check their privilege". Think about their situation, just because they are a white straight male doesn't mean they are privileged. You don't know them, and you don't know their situation. Don't act like you do.
It took three generations for my family to get to where we are, and thats only lower middle class. Its very easy to be quick to judge someone off their appearance, before you do take a step back and ask yourself; "Do I know enough about this person to criticize them?". Chances are, the answer to that question is no.