The Permeation of Privilege
In Minnesota, winter often becomes a game of boasting about unseemly cold temperatures and the travails of shoveling snow or driving through blizzards. I used to get caught up in this game, but not anymore. Trying to be more present and centered has enabled me to take one day at a time and enjoy what each day has to offer. I have come to love the beauty of winter, the way the snow blankets tree limbs, the crystallized ice formations, and the silence ushered in by snow storms.
I owe this gift to doing my inner work and trying to find peace in the present moment. Doing my inner work is a way of life for me now and one of the results I'm noticing is that if I work on my biases in one area, it carries over to another area. For example, my newfound love of winter comes with a heaping side of realization that much of that shift in my perception of this season is owed to my privilege; the ability to assess my own privilege I uncovered while working on my unconscious racial biases.
It’s easy to stand in judgment of those who decry winter and all of its inconveniences, especially when you have privilege that makes those inconveniences minimal. One of the trials of winter that I used to abhor was driving and how I had to allow extra time to get places because of snow and ice-packed roads. I work from home now and don’t have to drive long distances in bad weather much anymore. If school is closed because of the weather, I don’t have to scramble to find childcare or take a vacation or sick day because I can continue working from home while my child is home. I don’t have to risk losing my job to stay home with her. I have enough money for heat and don’t have to worry about paying an extra high heating bill in an unusually cold winter. I don’t have to shovel or plow snow; I pay someone to do that for me now. I don’t have to risk a slip or a fall or a heart attack from doing these winter chores. I have the time and money to enjoy the recreational activities that winter offers such as skating, skiing and snowshoeing. I can afford to take vacations to warmer climates when I want a break from winter. Because of these privileges, I am afforded the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of this season. That’s a drastic shift in perspective for me and helps to check my judgment of others’ reactions to winter.
I am very privileged in many respects. A few years ago, I never would have made that statement because I wasn’t aware of my privilege. Awareness is a gift, but it also comes with responsibilities. I’m learning that the more truths I uncover about myself, the more layers of biases and beliefs I need to challenge myself on. Each truth revealed to me leads to another I must grapple with. I’m still learning what having privilege means for how I move about in the world. I do know that recognizing my privilege connects me to others in a more deeply human way and allows me to see my own humanity. This deep connection to humanity and self that inner work uncovers is what keeps me digging deeper. When I hear others complain about winter now, I’ll try to remember that they may not hold the same privileges I do. Recognizing our own privilege allows us to shift our perspectives of others and reclaim compassion for our fellow human beings. It's especially powerful when we can use our privilege to lift up others instead of remaining comfortable in our willful ignorance.