(An edited an updated version of my previous post, “Why I Am Actually Not “Lucky” To Be A Minority, and Debunking Other Privileged Misconceptions“)
If I had a dollar every time time I’ve been told I’m “lucky” to be a minority because of the amount of scholarships I qualify for, I wouldn’t actually need the scholarships. For many years now I’ve witnessed how people like me, who weren’t born into money and/or weren’t born with the privileges that come with being a white American citizen, are labeled as “lucky.” They use this to mask the fact that they believe we receive free handouts, and that they think the world will make every effort to grant us mobility, when in actuality the little resources that are made available to us can barely make up for a quarter of the opportunities and privileges we lack. What they don’t know is that this imaginary step stool isn’t free; it’s not just handed to me, yet for some reason non-marginalized people believe some degree of oppression and inequality buys you a pass to an easy life, a notion that to this day still confuses me. Is it resentment? Is it fear? Either way, by attributing my success to my identity they invalidate my efforts and insult my struggle.
I’m unaware of where this “luck” was once I actually got into college as it didn’t fix the times I felt utterly unprepared, incapable, and alone. My “luck” didn’t explain how I was to afford books, food, and basic necessities on an extremely tight budget, and it definitely didn’t help with my lack of confidence when everybody else around me didn’t seem to even have to worry about any budget. Where was this “luck” when I had nobody to turn to when I didn’t understand where to go or what to do to be successful in class because I did not have somebody to explain how to navigate college? Or when everybody else around me seemed to breeze through life and all I saw was disappointment after disappointment with no improvement? It was not luck that magically placed me in the position I’m in today, it was the tears and mistakes and lonely nights that I had to endure to learn how to navigate college and also succeed outside of the classroom.
Suppose we do have access to a wider array of scholarships and opportunities: had we been historically permitted the same political and economic opportunities as our counterparts we probably wouldn’t need them to be able to afford college. And suppose colleges did pick minorities over white students based on affirmative action: had we been given the same social opportunities and equal treatment as our counterparts years back we probably wouldn’t have a problem with unequal access to a higher education. The problem is the promotion of equality versus equity. While equality is supposed to treat everybody the same, it renders useless when those who are disadvantaged are still left behind; there is still an element of unfairness. It’s like giving everybody an extra ice cream scoop, except some already have six scoops and some don’t have a spoon and some don’t even have a bowl to place the ice cream in. What do you do then? With equity everybody is given exactly what they need in order to succeed and be allowed to participate in the same playing field regardless of discrepancies in the amounts of assistance given. Equity attempts to make up for the injustices that society’s systemic barriers have created, and this of course will seem unfair to those who are already better off, but until these barriers are removed and past injustices are atoned it is the only solution to allowing underrepresented groups the opportunities to get ahead and move upwards economically and socially.
They say life isn’t fair, but the degrees of unfairness vary. They say life isn’t supposed to cater to everyone’s needs, however that does not mean we should go hungry trying to have equal access to education and, more importantly, the resources and tools to make the most of that education. We never asked to be put in this situation of adversity, nor did we ask for so much responsibility at such a young age and with such a lack of direction. We’ve never asked to be placed in a perpetual state of uncertainty about things that our peers don’t even have to think twice about, but I’m supposed to believe I’m “lucky.” The collective energy used in complaining about how your privilege deprives you of this alleged fortune should instead be used to help eradicate these barriers that justify this large demand for aid for minorities in the first place.
This belief that being disadvantaged is actually an advantage is tired and offensive. Our hard work is trivialized, and to receive recognition for applying the same effort as our counterparts we have to exert twice the amount of labor with half the amount of time and resources. Before we even reach a certain age we’re already labeled under a certain stereotype that we unconsciously stratify ourselves into, and unless you deliberately program your brain to break out you’re doomed to become a victim of these injustices. All because you were born a certain race, raised within a certain socioeconomic status, and other factors that you never got to decide on. And they believe that because families have to skimp on basic necessities or can’t afford to invest in the factors needed for upward mobility that they are “lucky.”
We are not lucky and it’s not fair, but when misfortune knocks us down we have never let it keep us down. Because we have encountered moments of crises and adjusted to discomfort we are able to push through challenging times and have learned that we have no other option but to rise back up when we’ve been knocked down. It is faith that keeps us going and the need to escape the limitations we grew up with. It is hunger and thirst and a desire to prove to ourselves that it was not all in vain. It is the constant reminder that there have been countless of sacrifices made for you to be in the position that you are in right now, sacrifices that were not easy and changed the course of people’s lives. It is that voice inside your head that tells you that this is only the beginning, and the vision in your heart of the person you want to embody and the achievements you want to exhibit. Maybe in this sense we are a little lucky. Our adversities propel us to move forward and create a better life for our families and future generations who will embody the same situations. We are fighters and dreamers and doers, and we still practice humility and an open-minded demeanor.