Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How Fortunate I Am

Last week I was reflecting on how fortunate I am to live now and I much I owe those who came before me for fighting so hard and risking their lives so that I can enjoy the "equal protection of law" promised to all Americans by the 14th Amendment.

Would my dad have stayed here if the Civil Rights movement hadn't made America a place where there were no legal barriers to his success? Or would he have gone home because his concerns about America were greater than his concerns about his native country? Would he have stayed in Maine, where people are super nice, instead of going to Chicago where he met my mom. It hasn't been all easy going for him. When I told him that I was doing work with the Fair Housing Act, he told me about when he was inexplicably turned down for a mortgage. It didn't make any sense at the time since he had a high paying steady job as a surgeon. The only real plausible explanation was that someone didn't like his accent or his funny name and turned him down.

Would my parents have gotten married if the Lovings hadn't taken their case to the U.S. Supreme Court and had anti-miscegenation laws invalidated as unconstitutional 14 years before they married? Even if they did marry and have children, would my parents feel comfortable taking us to Disney World or traveling anywhere knowing they might end up someplace where their marriage was illegal? This apparently is still a problem for couples like my parents and Mr. H and myself. Shortly after we were engaged, a justice of the peace in Louisiana refused to marry a couple like us and I can still remember how indignant and hurt I felt when he said he wouldn't do it because the marriages didn't work out and the children of those relationship suffer because of their mixed raceness.

My first trip to Disney World

If not for the woman's rights movement would my mom have felt capable of going to medical school, where she met my father? Would my mom have felt empowered to delay child birth until after finishing all her training to become a surgeon? If she hadn't my mom might still have had children but life would have been so different without her strength and knowledge. It also would have been very different without the extra income that her job provided. I would never have known the wonderful nanny who helped raise us.

I know I am so incredibly blessed because of my parents' education and their relative wealth. I grew up in a very wealthy area so I never realized how money improved my opportunities because it provided me and my sisters with education experiences that many others didn't have access to. (Also braces to fix my crooked teeth.) My life experiences were pretty normal for most people in the area so I didn't realized that they weren't the norm for the rest of the country.

Seeing the beginning of Western Civilization

I didn't really realize how lucky I was until college when I started talking with my new classmates about their life. I realized that I'd only come so far because my parents worked I've only come this far because I've gotten so much support from my parents. They've always told me I can do whatever I set my mind to and have taught me to work hard for what I want. In addition, they've given me finical support when they think it's appropriate. I am in awe of those who've accomplished more than I have without their parents' help.

I read about social justice on the internet and I found this little exercise that can be used to help illustrate people's different life experiences and you can imagine how some of these differences would result in advantages in school and life.

Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka
Indiana State University
© 2008

Introduction: An activity designed to help the participants gain awareness of the vast range of social class that exists within themselves and others. This has been updated based on the wide range of feedback we received as this was becoming a popular experience.

Explanations and Notes: All of the ‘step taking’ is about things not requiring effort on the students’ part, that were things done by others. While some of these are important to some people, others will be important to others. The list includes experiences, objects, and other things which reflect social class.

Each bolded statement is a step forward I would take. Something that likely helps me that is likely something someone else did.

If your father finished college before you started
If your mother went to college before you started 
If your mother finished college before you started

If you have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor. (I'm counting my mom as a professor since she teaches and is an administrator at a med school. I assume a surgeon is a physician.)

If your family was the same or higher class than your high school teachers

If you had a computer at home when you were growing up
If you had your own computer at home when you were growing up (Some of my earlier memories involve playing Reader Rabbit on our families first computer and typing gibberish in the word processor. I miss DOS so much. I had my own computer on an off, I was so nerdy and I wanted to be an l33t hax0r so bad.)

If you had more than 50 books at home when you were growing up
If you had more than 500 books at home when you were growing up (I am guessing that we had more than 500 books, they are my Dad's favorite thing in the world and he bought us a copy of the Encyclopdia Britanica before we were born. My parents never said no to buying me books.)
If were read children's books by a parent when you were growing up (I have a video of my mom reading me a book for Halloween and I remember my dad reading me fables.)

If you ever had lessons of any kind as a child or a teen
If you had more than two kinds of lessons as a child or a teen (I should be much more musical and athletic than I am now given the number of lessons I've had. I've had piano lessons, guitar lessons, tennis lessons, swimming lessons, and golf lessons all for nothing.)

If the people in the media who dress and talk like you were portrayed positively (I'm from the Midwest and general speak the like the newscasters thought. I mostly dress kind of preppy now but when I was a child my parents more or less dressed me like everyone else.)

If you had a credit card with your name on it before college (FYI Even if you're just an authorized user on your parents' account it may show up on your record when people go to pull your credit score and that may cause you some problems.)

If you had or will have less than $5000 in student loans when you graduate
If you had or will have no student loans when you graduate (I only have student loans from law school. May parents would have paid for that if they weren't paying for college for E2 and E3 at the same time. They're helping me pay them now since I am not working.)

If you went to summer camp (Once I went to sleep away camp. I went to Park District Day Camps every summer until I was in high school.)

If you had a private tutor (I got a C in Level 4 Spanish my freshman year of high school, so I got a tutor to keep up my GPA until I could drop down to Level 3 my sophomore year.)

If you have been to Europe more than once as a child or teen (I'd only been once before College.)

If your family vacations involved staying at hotels rather than KOA or at relatives homes (My mom was very anti-camping as her family had to camp. We never needed to camp so we never did.)

If all of your clothing has been new (I got no hand me downs since I am the big sister and the oldest cousin here.)

If your parents gave you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them (I miss the VW Cabrio my parents got for me, but only in the summer. My Ford Escape handles so well in the snow. It also a gift from my parents because my mom was worried about me driving the Cabrio to school everyday in the winter. My husband didn't learn to drive in high school because he didn't want his parents to pay for car insurance for him or driver's ed classes, I taught him how to drive and he bought his own car.)

If there was original art in your house as a child or teen (I do not think so but I have no clue.)

If you had a phone in your room (I am saying yes to this because I had a cellphone in middle school in the late 90s)

If your parent owned their own house or apartment when you were a child or teen
If you had your own room as a child or teen (I shared a room with E2 for a little bit but we all got our own rooms as we got older.)

If you participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
If you had your own cell phone in High School
If you had your own TV as a child or teen (I got rid of my TV at some point.)

If you opened a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College (E3 did. She is smart.)

If you have ever flown anywhere on a commercial airline (My parents took me to Hawai as a lap baby! They are the bravest people in the world.)
If you ever went on a cruise with your family (On the first one I remember I was horribly sea sick at dinner every night and I puked all over me and  my dad at least once while he was taking me to vomit. On the one we went on in Alaska, I was the sickest I have ever been in my life. I still get very sea sick so I am glad that I can opt out of family vacations now. On the last cruise we went on as a family my parents got me perscription stength anti-nasuea meds like the kind my mom used when she was undergoing chemo and I still felt sea sick on the day we were at sea.)

If your parents took you to museums and art galleries as a child or teen (I can't remember ever going to an art museum with my parents but my mom would always take us to the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Alder Planetarium.)
If you were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family (I had no idea how much our bills were until we got old. My dad is not very good at remembering things and for some reason he was in charge of paying bills so occasionally some would slip by and I'd find out how much the past due payment was when someone called and left a message reminding him to pay up. I also went with him to pay the credit card bill because he'd always leave that to the last minute.)

If you went to a private high school

*If you'd like to use this for teaching or otherwise please be sure to credit the original educators who created this exercise. You can read more about them here: http://quakerclass.blogspot.com/2007/11/what-privilege-do-you-have.html and here http://socialclassoncampus.blogspot.com/2012/11/step-into-social-class-20.html.

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