Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Privilege Walk for Bloggers

I write, chastened. I saw one of the consciences of our generations rail and rant against injustice and I was silent. I was silently complicit, giving deference to the thought that we should not speak when questioned.

Giving deference to the idea that idea that elders are to be respected, that silence is golden, that mob mentality and conformism and everything I have stood against, fought against, railed against, is alright.

As one of the few people in the room who had some knowledge or experience of the other side in a way more meaningful, less than transient, I know that we are and yet are not the Other. In so many ways our identities and histories fall on different sides of many divides, so a litany of privilege, of blessing. Normally we do the following exercise with teammates or coworkers in a big room, and have everyone start on a line in the center, and take a step forwards or back depending on how the statement applies, we see who moves where based upon each statement, and then when we finish, we see where everyone stands within the room relative to each other based upon the cumulative questions.

Hence, a modified Privilege Walk for bloggers (additional ideas from here, and some questions I made up.) Feel free to replicate and answer as you wish, although we don't have walls and physical lines, I thought it'd be interesting to see where people wind up. And remember, these questions are supposed to be answered at a gut level. Elaboration or free flow thoughts are welcome but not necessary:

1) Do you get your mostly get your news online?
Yes. I am a blogger and primarily receive my news from the blogosphere. [Check one for lives in high tech bubble. Does this make me a bubble person?]

2) Were you aware of your family income growing up?
Yes, I grew up middle class, at times lower and other times solidly so. Sometimes I felt it more than others. Know the standard definition of middle class.

3) Did your family have more than 10 books in the house while growing up?
Yes. I loved to read.

4) Did your parents have to work nights and weekends to earn enough money to support
you?
Yes.

5) Did your family expect you to go to college?
Yes. At the time, the stress of getting into the right school seemed like a burden, but now I recognize my college education for the privilege that it is, through the combined influence of someone more financially privileged than me and people less educationally privileged than me.

6) Did they have the knowledge to help you secure the financial resources to go to college?
Yes. But I remember the pains of filling out the FAFSA.

7) Have you always had health insurance?
No. And it's a scary scary thing to be without.

8) Can you be rude, make a mistake, or drive carelessly without someone attributing it to
your gender or race?
Yes/no. I don't think in most places that being Asian American and being rude are stereotypically linked together, except for in Chinatowns. The "Asians are bad drivers" thing, however, haunts me whenever I drive.

9) When you get a job, are you reasonably sure they hired you because of your ability and
qualifications?
Yes, I have never questioned this until now. I don't have mega loads of connections. And I'm not good-looking enough to ever think my boss hired me to be eye candy. Except for maybe once, and that was because a client told my coworker that I was cute. So that moment of uncertainty was less about being eye candy for the employer but rather for our clients.

10) Are you reasonably sure that when you wear a symbol of your religion, people will not
fear you?
Hmm, I don't know. Does the Church of the Flying Spaghetti monster count?

11) If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
Yups.

12) I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
Sadly no. Questions of representation always leave me feeling drained. Even when the question isn't explicitly preceded by "As an Asian . . ." or "As an Asian American . . ." But I have been told that I am well-spoken and taken it as a compliment before.

13) I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a person of my race would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.
No. I am pretty sure that the path I took, I was not offered certain positions based upon my race.

14) I can chose blemish cover or bandages in "flesh" color and have them more or less match my skin.
Yes. The disguise works!

15) I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race or gender.
Hmm. hmmm. Hmmm. In different settings, mostly yes. I wonder about the instances in which this was a no, though. As in, I wonder if my previous employers or coworkers saw it this way.

Give yourself a point if you answered yes to: Questions 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 13, 14, 15.
Give yourself a point if you answered no to: Questions 2, 4.

Count up the number of points you have. This tells you how close to the front of back of the room you are; how much relative privilege you have. Btw, this isn't a scientific survey or anything, just something I'm personally curious about.

8 points. Guess that puts me somewhere in the middle of the room? I tag Zuky, Thao Worra, wsoft.heart and hui jeong (if she's still around) but everyone's welcome to take it. I'm curious to see where others in the blogosphere stand.

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