Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What Is Privilege?

Today was our first full day on the AFLV immersion trip to New Orleans, where we are working with Habitat for Humanity as well as living together in a neighborhood home for volunteer. We are all affiliated with fraternity/sorority life in some way and have answered a call to serve others in New Orleans.

But why have we answered this call? I can't answer for everyone, but for me, it revolves around something covered in tonight's discussion: privilege and poverty. The house we are working on is in a low-income neighborhood that has been severely affected by Hurricane Katrina. It was impossible for me to not notice the homes that were essentially uninhabitable in the neighborhood; several homes and other buildings still had noticeable damage, despite the fact that the hurricane had occurred several years ago. We discussed the concept of poverty at length upon returning to our bunkhouse, and toward the end, we covered a pretty broad spectrum of the subject.

One thing that affected the discussion was a quiz we took called "Are You Privileged?" This was important for me because I personally connect strongly with those who are impoverished and who are struggling, because I see myself as someone who knows struggle. However, upon taking the quiz, I realized that I am actually more privileged than I had thought. Although I feel connected with those in poverty, I have to realize that I know a different form of struggle than these people do, and I might not know everything about what these groups of people are experiencing. For me, it was eye opening to realize how fortunate I have been to have all of these things when other people were having very different experiences.

We also talked about the idea that although we may have financial privilege, it doesn't necessarily mean that the people we are working with are poor in every sense of the word, as many people noted in our conversation. These people might have fewer material resources to work with, but they often have values and intellectual currency that we may never accrue without connecting with these people. By allowing them to teach us instead of focusing on teaching them, we can both benefit each other in amazing ways.

Miranda Huber is a sophomore at Elmhurst College and a member of Sigma Kappa Sorority.

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