11 Jul You Don’t Know You’re Privileged Till You Are Stripped of It
I grew up in a small town in eastern India (which by the way has a population of 1 million!), to an educated and upper middle class family. My family had lived there for over 40 years and my parents were well respected in the community. I lived inside my own bubble- attending the most prestigious high school and spending my weekends either playing with friends or going to the movies. Overlooking my house was an impoverished community- with houses made of mud and no electricity or gas. Even though I could see kids my age living significantly different lives than myself and taking odd jobs to ensure there was food on the table- I was stuck in my own world, worrying about whether I would get into a top engineering school or if my friends thought I was cool. I didn’t think about why my issues are so different than theirs. This was my privilege and I did not know it.
I did end up graduating with an engineering degree and went onto take up a job at an IT services firm in Bangalore. My joining class was diverse with brilliant and inspiring colleagues from all backgrounds however I was one of the few that were selected to be transferred to the US office. My manager explained to me that I had good client management skills and was “more polished than the others”. I took this as a compliment, not once stopping to reflect on the statement. This was my privilege.
When I finally moved to the US, I felt the shift in tone from my surroundings. Regularly I was now “randomly” selected for additional security checks- something that would have never happened to me in India. I found myself having to repeat myself again and again as people were not able to understand my “accent”. And it seemed my mere presence would upset people and cause them to yell or get upset with me, calling me a terrorist or reminding me I was not welcome.
Over the last few years, I have faced racism on a day to day basis which has helped me understand how privileged I really was back in India. I wish I had realized this earlier and been more sensitive to those around me. I am cognizant that in the grand scheme of things I am still privileged in many ways but am determined to be more aware and make a change in any way I can. To those that I may have unintentionally hurt or not cared about- I am truly sorry!
Gaurav Dhir, BackPac Guest Post
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