Over the weekend, this tweet by Shailja Patel opened my eyes to something new in my own long personal journey towards understanding privilege:
Patel says: “We all have the same 24 hours” is capitalism’s toxic tool for:
- Shaming the 99% for not being the 1%
- Erasing the support labour that makes celebrity lives possible and the people who perform that labour
- Shutting down questions about privilege, capital, and safety nets.
In other words, my 24 hours as a privileged person is not the same as the 24 hours of a person with less privilege.
- I own a car so I can get to my office in 10 minutes. It would take two different buses and over an hour if I had to take public transportation.
- I can afford to pay someone to change the oil on my car which takes 10 minutes at Jiffy Lube as opposed to taking – God only knows how long – hours (?) to do it myself.
- I have no sick relatives to take to chemo or dialysis or physical therapy – at least at this time of my life.
- I can walk, which means I can get from Point A to Point B without worrying about hunting down elevators and ramps.
- I get paid vacation which means I can take time off several times a year and still pay my bills.
- I have health insurance and can make an appointment to see almost any medical professional I need to visit – rather than waiting in an ER or free clinic for what could be hours.
- I never have to wait in line in Social Services for vouchers, assistance forms, or applications for services, probably missing working to do so.
Remember how great Kate Middleton looked hours after delivering her third child? Of course she did. She had the best possible health care, nannies at home to care for her other children, a team of make up and hair people after delivery, and a sweet ride home.
We who have much forget that life is just plain harder for most of the world. Often it’s crushingly harder.
[Note: If we think people are poor and sick as a result of their own sinfulness/”not trying hard enough” then we need to get out more.]
So, how can be share our privilege? How can we partner with those who need a hand? How can we bring relief to someone who has less time than we have?
We can start by opening our eyes and noticing. And don’t just notice; reach out. Or maybe we’re the ones who need a safety net, and if that’s the case, I pray somebody notices us.
Image of July 19, 2018 tweet by the Kenyan writer and activist Shailja Patel. She is the author of Migritude (2010.)