It's a phrase often used specifically towards white men (with good reason): You should check your privilege. This world was made for men — white men. It's something my white male history teacher has told us, all walls down, and something my white male English teacher has tried to make us realize. They actually made me realize something else: We should all check our privilege.
Forty-eight percent of the world's wealth is held by the richest 1 percent according to Oxfam. But rarely do we realize that if you are reading this on a computer, tablet or smartphone, sitting in a comfortable house protecting you from inhospitable nature, you are the 1 percent. You hold enough wealth not to be working in a factory that doesn't pay you nearly enough, to be sitting at home with the leisure of "me-time," doing homework that other people would give their hands to have the chance to be doing.
I had raised my hand in history class to ask my teacher a question about the Dred Scott decision, which essentially stated that all slaves were property, whether they lived in a slave state or even a free one.
"If Scott is a slave because he was from a slave state, couldn't he also be free if he went to a free state or was from one?" I asked.
I couldn't wrap my head around the concept. How could location determine whether you were a slave or not? It was all too reliant on fate.
"Let me ask you this," he said. "Wouldn't it have made a difference if you were born somewhere else, say, Chad?"
My teacher's reply stayed with me because yes, it would have made a difference. If I had been born in Chad, one of the worst countries for women according to numerous lists across the Internet, my life would be drastically different from today. Twenty-seven percent of women in Chad are literate while 99 percent of women are literate in the United States. Chad also has one of the highest child marriage rates in the world — 68 percent — compared to America's nearly nonexistent one.
These statistics just go to show the difference that birth makes. Location is everything in deciding your situation, something we have no control over. We can't choose what life we are born into or what situation we are placed in. We can't choose whether we will be born famous or rich. This is one major decision in our lives we have no hand in. All we can choose is what we do with it — and for some, maybe not even that.
As a result, we criticize those who have been born into better situations than our own for getting a leg up on us. We can feel sympathy for people who have been born into situations much lower than ours, but we can't find it in ourselves to stop criticizing people who have been born much higher. Reality TV stars like Kendall Jenner of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, who are bullied when they try to do more than just live off of their situation, are one example. Kendall received major backlash when she began modeling for many high fashion houses. A few models supposedly even placed their cigarettes in her drink. Many claimed Kendall's success in the fashion world was only due to her fame and family connections rather than her talent or skill.
I have never watched a full episode of the Kardashians and am more of a casual observer of their lives than a fan, but their lives never cease to interest me. I've always been torn between wanting to dislike them for what seemed like complete disregard for people who live with less and wanting to watch their show and become a mega-fan.
But my mind was made up right after reading "An Open Letter to Kendall Jenner About Her Model 'Bullying" at The Blot Magazine by Arisce Wanzer. Arisce wrote about her story, how she had a tough time even getting to the United States, much less becoming a model. Throughout the article, I kept agreeing with her. She was right. Kendall would never, ever experience something like this and never could. Once again, I was on the fence about where to fall. That was until I read Alexis Rae's argument.
"Biased much? I understand that Arisce is trying to highlight how many of the models mistreating Kendall probably felt, but the article did not allow for consideration on her side. Kendall did not choose to be born into a family with a bad reputation and a lot of money to show for it. She is doing what she wanted to do and maybe what she was meant to do, no matter her family."
Even if Kendall did receive some assistance because of her famous name, is that really what matters? She decided that she wouldn't just live off of her family fortune, but instead use it for something she seriously wants to pursue. In the end, isn't that exactly what you're doing? No matter what age you are or what you have done to further your career, you have had a platform, a power-up in the game of life, including (but not limited to) a family that financially supported you for a period of time, an education, access to multiple public resources such as libraries and parks, and a stable government. Although those richer than yourself may never understand your experience, you will never understand the experience of those below you, either.
It may not seem like the rich and famous have anything to worry about, but if you had been born in a less stable or privileged life, you would also look at your current self and wonder what there would be to worry about. Every level of life comes with its own problems, and each and every problem is valid. We can't judge other people's lives or situations by ours because we all have advantages over others. There is no such thing as "fair." Check your privilege. You didn't solely get to where you were today by your own means, either. We were all born into it.
Bethany Huang has been passionate about writing and reading ever since she wrote and self-published a book when she was 10 years old called The Eiffel Tower's Daughter. She is a dedicated feminist (humanist implied) who believes in empowering, accepting and supporting her sisters and brothers. Bethany is incredibly opinionated, and doesn't shy away from sharing it on her blog, Miss Unrep. Much of her time is spent making puns (which make other people groan), reading anything she can get her hands on, and exploring the local area with her camera.