I feel like a spoiled child when I am denied access. I want to kick and scream until I’m sent to my bedroom without any tv or supper. I scream, “I Don’t Care. It’s Not Fair!” I’ve got conflicted emotions while I’m holding my selfish ground. Thx Icona Pop.
When the child in me quiets down I can be rational. I can better see my place in the grand scheme of things when temper has cooled. I might still complain about the many gatekeepers at work to keep order in society. I might still rail against those who make money by keeping essential commodities inaccessible for the many in need, but I can put my selfish desires aside when I’m calm because my adult mind can remind me that I can’t always get what I want. I can believe for a moment that all good things will come to those who wait. Thx Rolling Stones.
I have given access a priority whenever I have made a move in my life. I want to be near the things I need for satisfaction. As much as my budget will allow, I figure closer is better; to beautiful spaces, to artistic opportunities, to healthy communities. There is nothing quite like caring for an elder to remind me of how lucky I am to be able bodied. Chaperoning someone in a wheelchair shows me how accessibility issues prevail. A simple grocery run is more difficult. A nature outing stops short when trails are not fit for wheels. Access points need to be evaluated for navigation hazards. And mobility concerns are not the least of the worries when dealing with sight or hearing deficits.
“Sorry, your request to be verified has been denied.” A Twitter message I received recently. It bothered me for a while. It was a cold ‘Access Denied’ sign that made me feel less than. I had not wanted the blue checkmark for status, but for clarity of identification: There are a lot of people with my name in this world. I soothed my sour grapes mood by realizing that I am among the many nearly anonymous, hardly influential and unheralded folk in this world.
It’s true that status often defines access. Consider William Shatner who was able, at 90, to take his Star Trek persona on a space joy ride. I have enjoyed the perks of going to events in my home towns as a result of a Press pass or Board membership. I may not be rich or powerful, yet I have felt the joys of entitlement enough to wish that everyone could be so blessed. So many humans on this Earth are denied the most essential of items: fresh water, food, housing, education, health care. My baby rants of ‘poor me’ make me feel embarrassed. For the vast majority there is a gate (virtual or otherwise) keeping them out of pleasures and processes that I too often take for granted. I must work harder to champion equity.
COVID continues and I’m binge watching the television series The Crown. Talk about privilege eh? I feel lucky to have something to occupy my thoughts amidst the luxury of NOT having coronavirus. The portrayal of the British Royal Family shows characters who are the epitome of privilege. Setting aside their vast wealth for a moment (and I don’t do that lightly), I ranted privately on how someone could be given the right to rule simply because of the circumstance of their birth. The reign of Queen Elizabeth II parallels my time in history since she ascended to the throne the year I was born. My British parents were working class and yet still had an affection for the “goings-on” at Buckingham Palace. My mom thought that Edward VIII did the right thing by abdicating and “leaving all that nonsense behind.” As the episodes of The Crown unfolded I often shook my head in a socially egalitarian way, yet before I got too judgemental about the Windsors I couldn’t help but take stock of the ways I have been privileged.
Firstly, I’m born a white skinned male. Enough said? I’ve had the privilege of a solid education. I held a career with public status and enjoyed an income healthy enough to support a family of five. I can’t help but wonder how others may see what I’ve done with my privileges. I do believe with privilege comes responsibility yet I recognize I have been selfish at times with my talents, my resources and my energy. Someone once told me that I “present well.” I’m sometimes embarrassed by the privileges I have not earned, however it’s been a privilege to help maintain the society within which I have been able to thrive. I try not to abuse the gifts that have been bestowed on me. I sincerely feel that privilege never gives me licence to be rude or disrespectful.
Birthright does not always enter into the success of an individual’s life, hard work and talent can place you in a privileged, enviable position. It’s true, those who work hard deserve something special for their efforts. However I also judge the way the wealthy few exercise their privilege. When I think of today’s 0.1%: Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, for example, it’s clear they represent the new royalty. Their individual wealth gives them privileges far beyond anyone currently entitled to a crown.
When dog walker Amy Cooper famously ranted in Central Park she abused her privilege. When Ted Yoho swore at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez he assumed his privilege would protect him. Ms. Cortez later stood in Congress on a ‘point of personal privilege’, and gave a moving speech related to human rights.
Sometimes it is clear where the line between privilege and right is drawn. The United Nation Declaration of Human Rights includes 30 rights felt to be essential to human life. They are often disregarded, usurped or dismissed by those who claim privilege, however these rights are inclusive, irremovable and do not depend on where, how or to whom you were entrusted at birth.