Yes, it’s rotten what those wealthy parents did to get their kids into college.
Paying for people to fake sports talent, change SAT answers, and blatantly buy spots in The Class of 2023 at Stanford, Yale, and the University of Southern California is outrageous and screams White Privilege if anything ever did. Those of us without an extra millions dollars to throw around are shocked – shocked! – to hear about such entitlement.
But the truth is that many of us have channeled Felicity Huffman. Yes, she paid $15,000 to an SAT proctor to “tinker with Sophia’s answers“ but many of us have expected entitlements too. Maybe we didn’t bribe someone with money. Maybe we simply have relationships that have benefited us and our families.
Everyday privilege is something that many of us have enjoyed for years without thinking much about it. For example:
- Have you ever requested a certain teacher for your children because that teacher was known to be “the best”?
- Have you ever asked a friend to get your child an internship at his/her company?
- Have you ever had a friend or family member with an extra bedroom or – how great would this be – an extra apartment where your child could live rent-free while taking a summer internship in the city?
- Have you ever been a member of a club or a pool where your children could make connections with people whose parents could help them get a job one day?
For the record, I’ve done all those things. We want the best for our kids. We want to make the way clear for them to succeed. Why not use our relationships to help our children score a good opportunity?
White Privilege – specifically – is hard to relinquish. Why would we give up our advantages? Some would say that the reason why we join clubs in the first place – and live in specific neighborhoods, and maybe even belong to certain churches or synagogues is because of the helpful connections we can make. And I get that.
But imagine a world in which we offer such advantages to other people’s children as well. Imagine sharing our privilege with others.
Maybe you heard the story about Tani Adewumi – the eight year old Nigerian refugee who became a chess champion in New York recently. He lives in a shelter with his mother, but he attends an excellent public school with a chess club. In Garry Kasparov’s article about Tani, he wrote:
“Talent is universal, but opportunity is not.”
Using our privilege is understandable. We can relate to parents like Felicity Huffman – albeit without committing a crime. But when we share our privilege, the opportunities get spread around more fairly. It’s the right thing to do.
I know a public school teacher who has connections in the film world near where he teaches. Part of his “ministry” (although he wouldn’t use that term) involves looking for internships for his most talented students. Often his hardest working high schoolers are poor or undocumented.
Over the years, this young teacher has helped over a dozen students find well-paying internships that also open other doors to future opportunities. He uses his own privilege/his own connections to help somebody else’s children thrive.
Where can we share our own privilege? Who can we open doors for? How can we offer opportunities to people who need a break?
Yes, we who are privileged will continue to channel Felicity Huffman. But are we so desperate that we won’t help other people’s children too?
Do we even notice other people’s children? Do we ever think about other people’s children? Today, let’s try to notice. And think.
Image of the actor Felicity Huffman in Desperate Housewives (2004-2012)