Privilege. A word I never thought to mean more than a decadent life filled with wealth, luxury and leisure, can be defined as an unacknowledged unknown that one may never notice they have until it’s taken away. Although it is commonly known that things are never truly appreciated until they are missed, this definition of privilege as an elusive gift of societal hierarchy and economic stature stood out to me.
When I was growing up, I had it all. The elaborate birthday parties that consisted of my father taking myself and ten of my willing friends to Disneyland, the closet big enough to house a family of six (or clothe an army), and the graceful peace that having money so delightfully provides. I thought this was privilege. And just as such, when my father left our family without a dime or a home, I felt stripped of all the luxurious rights I had become accustomed to. Thus, I considered privilege’s worth in paper – money was the way to live a privileged, happy life. And I was distraught with fear for most of my life (and still somewhat so) when money left my fingertips, and did not return home as easily as it once had. Yet what struck me so much about our class definition of the word was not its monetary value, but the examples of privileges that I had overlooked. The difference of a man walking down the streets of LA at night as opposed to a woman, the “threat” that Asian Americans posed in universities, the implicit rule that Asians could only be like whites but can never truly live up to their level. Privilege then, is not just money. It is the “painful wake-up call that underscores the extent to which the biases of the dominant white majority still prevail.” (Machida, 33) The influx of overvalued men over women’s rights stand as a testament to describe the ails of privilege, while the people of color either stand as part of the Asian model minority or simply fall to the bottom of the social ladder.
Privilege does not mean privilege. It is a diaspora of prejudice and subjugation strewn across the world to make one sensible meaning: If you’re lucky, have fun. If you’re not, tough luck.