Saturday, November 23, 2013

Privilege & Poverty

If you read certain ladyblogs like I do, you will hear the word privilege a lot. I always knew that I'd probably qualify as privileged but I never realized what the opposite of economic privilege -- poverty -- is truly like. Although I make a hobby studying both ends of the economic spectrum, poverty and what it must be like was never so clear to me as when I read this recent blog post that is getting a lot of attention called "This is What It's Like to be Poor"

I thought about the contrast between being poor/unprivileged and my rather privileged existence through the lens of something that happened to me this week. I went running in my hood last weekend 2x (also a privilege to have a safe space to run outside) and I somehow ended up inflaming a joint in my lower back. By Monday morning, walking, sitting and standing were all painful. By Tuesday, my colleague told me "call my chiropractor right now!" at about 2:30 in the afternoon. Just having access to that knowledge -- who to call for help, is a privilege. And then the even bigger privilege -- my private health insurance for which I pay $200 a month in premiums and i'm sure my job pays at least 2x that, covers every visit I need with not even a co-pay. My fancy insurance also reimburses me 1/2 of my weekly $200 therapist bill, for a therapist who is out of network (in network therapy is $30 a visit). And I've been going to my therapist for about 4 years now. Weekly. And insurance has never said anything. But back to my back issue. Because I have a white collar office job, I was able to just shoot off an email saying I'm leaving at 4:00 to go get my back fixed. If needed, I could even have worked from home for several days that week (except when I had business meetings). That flexibility is a privilege. My boss' only response was feel better. Plus, if something crazy were wrong and I had to be out of work for months and months, I have private long term disability insurance that I purchased on my own and I have another LTD policy through my job. I could get paid for not working for years. Finally, if I were permanently disabled, I could live for free with my mom forever probably. And she would help me navigate and advocate for me to ensure I got all the benefits a disabled person is entitled to.

When you open your eyes, it is easy to see the privilege around you. For example, I woke up this morning thinking how wonderful to have a quiet, safe and serene place to sleep and live.  I don't have to have roommates. I get to live in the exact neighborhood that I want to. Crime is not an issue (knock wood). I have easy access to everything I need -- from fantastic food to health care, and I don't even need a car to access it. But if I did, I could afford to buy and maintain one.

I think it's important to keep our eyes and ears open to be aware of our own privileges and ry hard to understand those who may not have them and figure out wayswe can help them overcome challenges that arise from their situation.

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