The recent brouhaha over TEAM Westport’s “white privilege” essay contest got many folks thinking. Throughout town — and around the globe — they dissected the meaning of “privilege.”
Amelia Suermann has a unique perspective. Today, she shares it with “06880”:
I’m privileged to have grown up in Westport. It is a wonderful and supportive town. I’m so proud to say “I’m from Westport” — even when fellow Nutmeggers roll their eyes.
I did not have the “typical” Westport upbringing. My parents aren’t CEOs or executives. I didn’t live in a McMansion, and I wasn’t raised with other stereotypes of Westport.
But make no mistake: I’m privileged.
I’m privileged to have been homeless in Westport. It could have been a lot worse. I am privileged to have been raised by a single mother who worked 2, sometimes 3 jobs, to afford rent and necessities so that I could grow up in a great town with amazing resources, and attend school in a public system that rivals some of the best private institutions in the country.
I’ve posted before on this blog — anonymously — about growing up homeless in Westport. Without the town’s incredible resources, including the Bacharach Center and Gillespie food pantry that fed us many times when money was tight, God only knows where I would be.
I worked minimum wage throughout high school. Sometimes I used my earnings to pay phone bills or buy groceries. I should be a statistic.
But I grew up in Westport — a community with supportive neighbors and teachers. Because of that, I graduated high school. And as Elizabeth wrote a few days ago, the assumption that I would do so was privilege in of itself.
I went to college in Boston and then DC, where I settled and started my life. I’m a product of Westport’s world. The perspective that Westport has provided me is truly unique.
It’s a perspective of 2 worlds: Food pantry “shopping” on Friday night, lounging on friends’ boats on Saturday. You don’t get more privileged than that.
Addressing your own privilege should be about recognizing that maybe we have it a little easier than a lot of people.
A colleague who is originally from Milford sent me a newspaper story on the essay contest. While I understood the intent, a part of me sighed “Ohhh Westport…” as I shook my head.
I thought about my own life, my own privilege. Could we have had an easier life in a less expensive place? Probably.
But I would not have had the excellent education that set me up for the life I have now. People in other towns and of other ethnicities don’t have the same opportunities as many in Westport do. And while I would like to believe that if a non-white peer having the same experience as I would end up with the same happy ending, I don’t.
There are hundreds of comments on Dan’s various posts. Isn’t that the true intent of the essay contest — to inspire thought and a dialogue about one’s own privilege?
Let’s all vow to not let these conversations about privilege go away, simply because they’re hard or embarrassing.
Let’s make them matter.