Asperger's / General / Motherhood

Privilege, Classism, Oppression: On Why I Feel I Don’t Belong

coexist

I am thin so I have thin privilege.

My dad was successful at making money so I have class privilege.

My skin is white so I have white privilege.

I stayed at home with my children so I have privilege. (I don’t remember the specific definer attached to that one.)

I don’t have autism so I have neurotypical privilege.

And because I am so-called neurotypical, I have the world is easier for me privilege.

When I’m in the middle of an interval workout, my heart is pounding and I’m pushing myself to run at my max or when I’m walking past my favorite flavor of ice cream in the frozen foods section at the grocery store (and my is heart pounding) and I tell myself “not today,” it sure doesn’t feel like privilege. It feels like work, and discipline, and it’s insulting when people write off as privilege the very behaviors I am proud of.

My father died when I was 22, just months after I graduated from college and all that I have accomplished, all my husband and I have today is the result of what we have worked to achieve. None of the affluence we were raised in was extended to us past graduation. Yes, we had the opportunity to grow up in nice houses, go to good schools and graduate from state colleges. We also were expected to put forth a full measure of work, to practice thrift and be good citizens and we have done just that. Hard work and honest achievement, and coming from a family that did the same, is not something anyone should ever have to apologize for.

My skin is white, believe me I know, having suffered many blistering sunburns and the removal of multiple growths of malignant skin cancer. Yes, I cannot fully appreciate what it is like to be anything but white and probably being pale has brought advantages I am not aware of. But, being white also doesn’t mean I have been handed that which I have. It seems as if it is not politically correct for me to say that, but say it I will, because it is the truth and saying the truth shouldn’t be incorrect. I hurt when I hear what I have earned is a result of privilege.

When my husband and I started our family we did so with a plan for me to be home. We made sacrifices. We were poor and I am talking WAY below the federal poverty guidelines. We went from the nice homes of our parents to HUD housing. To get my husband through graduate school we had student loans. But we always had a plan, we stuck to it and we stuck together. We knew from the beginning what we valued and what our priorities were and we let those guide us. Staying home came at a cost, but it was a price we were willing to pay and to be told I was lucky to stay home just somehow doesn’t even begin to cover what it really took to make it happen.

And I do not have autism. Nope. I don’t. But I am tired of being called normal, or neurotypical, with the implication that because I don’t have one particular something, such as autism, that the world is easier for me. I resent that. No one should diminish someone else because of something they have or don’t have. Everyone has struggles, that is part of the human condition.

Like many children, I was called names, ironically one of those names, Casper, was based on the color of my skin. Due to a loss of hearing when I was a toddler I had speech problems and for several of my elementary school years a boy named Carlos would come to my class one day each week during the middle of instruction and announce in front of everyone, in what seemed to me to be the loudest voice EVER,

“It’s time for Charlotte to go to Speech.”

And up I had to get, alone and walk past my classmates feeling completely ashamed. I still remember, 40 years later, how that speech class was always right before lunch and if speech got out early I would go to the bathroom and hide in a stall and wait until I heard my class walking down the hall to lunch. I hid in the bathroom because I didn’t want to return to class, open the door and have all the kids look up at me as I reentered the room, back from the speech class that only I in that class had to go to. I hated the eyes. I hated being singled out. I hated myself for being deformed.

Then in 8th grade, my general music teacher split the class into girls and boys, but had me, the only one asked to sit and sing with the boys because he said I had a low voice. I was horrified and all those speech class feelings swept back over me and each time that class met and I sat with the boys, as we sang I silently drowned in my own sea of deformity. Already self-conscious of my voice, after that, for the rest of my school years and well into my adulthood, I struggled to speak out because I believed my thoughts and my opinions, like the sound of my voice, were deformed.

I share these stories not for pity because I neither want nor need pity, but to make a point and that is…

We all have our shit.

Period.

Shit is pretty much one of life’s guarantees. And we don’t get to choose our shit, but we do get to choose what we do with it once we have it. Life’s lessons such as speech class and general music can teach empathy, if we let them. They stamp our human card and they can highlight what I have come to believe about people and that is…

We are more alike than we are different.

But so often I see people mired in their speech and music class stories. They hold onto them like precious possessions. And sometimes, they even tell others, with the presumption that those who they are addressing are storyless, and that not only do they not have stories but they are privileged because they don’t have stories, and that bothers the hell out of me.

That is what makes me feel like I don’t belong. Right there.

My desire to see our experiences bind us together rather than tear us apart, that is what makes me feel isolated from so many people.

Because so often I just see the tearing apart. Over and over and over again I see division. I see the forming of groups defined by perceived haves and have-nots.

Yet still, the idealist in me, barely breathing but still alive, wishes we could get past this need to separate. The idealist in me wishes we could evolve beyond our basic biological need for in-group favoritism.

But then the realist in me, ever the strong and steady presence, chuckles at the idealist’s foolish thoughts and I feel like I must be crazy. I am left feeling alone and that I simply must not belong in this world.

But then, and it’s never too long before the universe smiles down on me, I am reminded I’m not alone and I do belong. As I was writing this post I took a break to talk to my son Ted. We discussed our mutual idealist/realist turmoil.

“It’s like what Lennon said in the song,” Ted said. “He was being ideal. But then, look what happened to him.”

The two of us agreed, standing together in our kitchen, that in all likelihood, in our life times, human hard-wiring will not change. Human nature and our biological need to separate will continue. But occasionally, just as John Lennon did, we also agreed it’s nice to visit the idea that just maybe, we might, make the leap to full inclusion for all people and then,

Imagine.

40 thoughts on “Privilege, Classism, Oppression: On Why I Feel I Don’t Belong

    • Thank you! I always appreciate your support especially when I write the harder posts. Thank you for being my friend and understanding what I meant. Understanding that if we put no one down maybe we would lift everyone up. Thank you. :-)

      • I see it here too, around me, everywhere. If some uneducated person puts others down then it may be attributed to their ignorance, but I see educated, so called cultured people behave cruelly or rudely to the people whom they perceive as ‘different’. That saddens me. And I love the line”if we put no one down we would uplift everyone” and ourselves too.. I guess :)

      • Such treatment of individuals we see as not in our In Group is everywhere and I don’t mean to be negative when I say it is the human condition, but it is. And I don’t think there is anything negative about calling something what it is. In fact, if we could do that more, if we could begin by just being more honest about how things are, then could we begin to ease some of the struggles amongst people? Oh my friend, I wonder…

      • And I wish that people would take just a moment to think.. think about their words, actions… that alone would be a beginning to a more tolerant and kind world… Oh!! we could go on and on about ‘ifs’.. :)

      • And on we will go with thoughtfully chosen words as you say. And perhaps our actions will spread and possibly inspire. At least we will know that our words and our actions are not ifs but reality, at least for ourselves. That my dear is a start. :-)

  1. You may say you’re a dreamer, but you’re not the only one… I hope.
    After hearing this song… we all want the take ‘Singstar’ (Playstation 2à and sing songs like Imagine and so…

    • We should all play Singstar and sing, and laugh and have fun and maybe, just maybe, the dreamer in all of us would come and grow stronger! Oh I hope I’m not the only dreamer. Hearing from you makes me think I’m not. I think you for that! :-)

  2. Yes, we are all different in shapes and sizes but we have one thing in common, SHIT. And I am saying that in jest. Even the Queen has got to go. The Sun shines on everyone and I am so glad that it’s smiling, not shining at you. Lovely read.

    • Thank you. I want to spread the message of an ultimate kind of tolerance, and well, I have to say, I enjoy your humor. It’s a wonderful counter to such a serious message! Yes, laughter. Oh sweet, beautiful laughter. Thank you for that! :-)

  3. Even though I am autistic, this rings true to me in many other aspects, particularly in being white and from a rather well-off family (mom a doctor and dad a lawyer, worked hard to support four children). In fact, I am often embarrassed with the resources I have, because people often like to play “oppression olympics” with me, and tell me I have no reason to complain about my life. But in the end of the day, I am going to have to work hard, too.

    • You are absolutely right and I am so glad you wrote. I am so glad you understood that this is not a slam against autism, in ABSOLUTELY no way is it. Heck, autism has been a huge part of my life for 18 years. But subjectively comparing one condition to another, there’s just no victory in that. The victory is when no one has to feel embarrassed about what they have or don’t have, when we can recognize that each and every one of us is in a have/don’t have position, just about different stuff. Good on you for recognizing, rightfully so, you do have to work hard, and that hard work is a crucial element for anyone overcoming the unique obstacles put before them. Thank you for stopping by. Thank you for sharing and being part of the conversation. :-)

  4. “it’s nice to visit the idea that just maybe, we might, make the leap to full inclusion and then,

    Imagine.” Love this. Hope this for my children and yours.

    • I am glad this post spoke to you. I am glad you can understand what I was trying to say and that it was not my intent to be offensive but rather, to be inclusive. I do what I can, in my little part of the blogging world to promote peace amongst people rather than add to division. Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation. :-)

  5. Wow, wow and wow! This is so GOOD! You speak the truth, and you speak it well. I knew we were in for another good post from you! This was VERY thought provoking for sure!
    I firmly believe that life is all about the choices we make, some of us have learned to make better choices than others, and we have also learned to handle the consequences of our poor choices, when that happens. But,when it comes down to it, it’s still a matter of choice, and discipline, and yes, hard work! Like walking past the ice cream instead of indulging. Or any number of life choices that we have to make each and every day. It IS a matter of discipline and hard work, and you’re absolutely right – we should NEVER apologize for it!
    You fit in my world, Charlotte, and I’m so glad you’re here!
    Have a wonderful week-end enjoying all the good choices that you have made!

    • Becky, my astute friend, you have hit the nail on the head when you speak of choices because that is precisely what life amounts to. Life is a series of thousands upon thousands of choices and it is also about responsibility for those choices; the good choices as well as the bad choices. I mean really, where has self-responsibility gone??? Heck, I have made bad choices, you bet your bippy I have. And I have tried to own those choices, and sit down with them and look at them and try to learn from them so that when a similar situation came, which it will, I could make a different, hopefully better choice. But we seem to excuse away what people do, especially their bad choices. So often it seems we don’t hold them accountable for their choices, like, poor them, they have this or that so they couldn’t possibly make a good choice. Oh that is a dangerous way to go. Well, in my little way, I am trying to change that. I am trying to celebrate discipline and hard work as well as celebrate shit. Yeah. Leave it to me to celebrate shit. But what I mean by that is to recognize we all have it and rather than perpetuate it as a difference maker, emphasis it as a unifier. Oh Becky, there I go again! You know what, I am going to be quiet now and go take a long walk on my treadmill. I’m reading a good book and I am just going to drift away for awhile. Have a great weekend too my friend, and before I go, I just want to say, I appreciate you! :-)

      • Yep – might need to take a break on this one. :) Seems to me like this is one of those subjects that could go on and on. So many layers, like peeling back an onion! BUT! it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t tackle the subject and look it square in the eyes, just as you did. Clearly, it resonates with a lot of people, probably because we have all experienced it at one point in our life. You would think we would learn from it, and practice the “do unto others” rule a little more often!
        Ahh, well, moving on. It’s another day, with another crisis to solve. Can’t solve all the world’s problems in one day, now can we! But it certainly is worth a shot!
        Hope you enjoyed your long walk and good book. Two things that are great for your body, soul and spirit!
        And….yep, you made another good choice, Charlotte! :)
        Looking forward to the next time! Hope you had a great day!
        Becky

      • Hey Becky, I was so busy getting away from it all that I have missed so many comments! Back to catching up. YES! I will speak the truth when I can, when the truth is about principles that matter to me. And yes! You are so right on about “do onto others.” Good grief, so simple, yet so hard for most to do. What’s with that??? So, it’s, for me at least, striking a right balance, calling out BS when I see it and then retreating to a BSless world to rejuvenate! Then back at it. I don’t know, maybe it’s having grown children, having more time to think about stuff that I didn’t have time for before. Maybe it just wasn’t the kids that were growing but me as well, for I do, I am aware of this need to speak more than ever before. It makes me rather excited actually, this new chapter coming up in my life. It’s like I get to color myself new again!!! :-)

  6. Ahhhh…. good stuff. This is great Charlotte… and Im glad Im not the only dreamer too …. Loved it. !!

    • Thank you! It’s feeling good, all the way down to the very essence of who I am, to hear from you all. To hear from people who understand what I was trying to say. Thank you for the validation. Thank you for being with me on this one! :-)

  7. You’ve done it again, my friend. I’m so proud to know you and be able to read the words you write. I have so many of the same thoughts but surely cannot put them down as well as you do. I do imagine… and still refuse to lower my bar. ;)

    • Why thank, friend. So glad to have you join our chorus! Sometimes I just can’t be quiet. I can’t sit back and not voice that which I feel and it is encouraging to know that there are others who feel the same. Very encouraging and I will happily be a mouthpiece that promotes tolerance, equality and unity and to help remind anyone who will listen of our similarities rather than our differences. Up and down goes the bar, but maybe, one day, it can be permanently installed in the up position. :-)

  8. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes & yes! Good for you. We all, each and every one of us have a narrative and we need to learn to look to the similarities and not be so divisive. Brava.

    • YAY Beth Anne! Yes, yes and yes! Thank you for writing. Thank you for understanding. Thank you for being a positive and unifying voice. So glad to know you are there. :-)

  9. Thank you for speaking the plain truth about so-called thin privilege. It seems to me that calling out another person for their “privilege” usually amounts to an attempt to subjugate that person. I first became aware of this phenomenon in middle age when an acquaintance, with recognizable hostility in his voice, commented to me that I was part of the “lucky metabolism club”. Yes, I am athletic and fit, but he was either ignorant or dismissive of the 5 or more intense workouts I do each week. It’s fine to be out of shape but to pass off the hard-won fitness achievements of others as the consequence of some lottery is offensive. I enjoyed your candor on the subject.

    • Tim, I understand your frustration. I understand what it feels like to have hard work written off as luck or privilege. I am sorry that has to happen, just as I am sorry some people are challenged by weight and feel abused because of it, and I am even more sorry that some feel compelled to pit the two groups against each other creating animosity rather than compassion. That is the point I was trying to emphasis and your comment regarding your experience highlights that nothing good comes from division such as that. And I end with a question, have we have created the Victim Olympics and we are now using our energy to compete for the gold medal of victimhood? Sometimes, I wonder…

  10. If we could just gravitate towards using our ability to separate where necessary – and it certainly is important to be able to discriminate – and using our ability to encompass and include appropriately – and lord knows that’s important – wouldn’t we be happier? And wouldn’t society be more just? I grew up with that song as a touchstone, and Ted’s comment is sad, but the idealists don’t all get killed – Yoko, (maybe more an iconoclast than an idealist) is still kicking up dust at – I’ll check – 80 years old!

    • Lynn, I couldn’t agree with you more. We would be happier if we included appropriately. I am a believer of discrimination, of discernment, being vital critical thinking skills. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of a book about Social Identity Theory. I am fascinated by this topic because what I see, what I was writing about is how we take a group we identify with, and then we find an opposite group, and then somehow, for some, the group is strengthened by creating differences with that other group. “You are not like me. You couldn’t possibly have been through anything like what I have been through. You couldn’t possibly understand what it means to be me.” And the identity with the group can become so strong and the holding on to the hardships seems so strong, it seems thinking, empathy and the desire to move on cease to happen. And rather than build bridges to each other, we put up obstacles to unity. And then the ability to encompass and include appropriately becomes impossible. And yes, thank goodness being ideal does not lead to actual physical death as in the extreme case of John Lennon. But I have found, as I have grown older and witnessed more, when addressing the larger world, it is harder to keep my idealist side strong and that makes me sad.

      Thank you for your comment, you have gotten me to sit here and think and try to understand my feelings and form hopefully somewhat coherent thoughts about this topic. I hope I have made sense. And I am not all doom and gloom about people. Quite the opposite. I think I understand quite well who we are and how we are and I accept that. I am just trying to be what I consider to be honest and in that attempt to be honest try to spark an honest conversation because a conversation based on anything but honestly just seems, well sorta useless. I appreciate your support, your kindness, your thoughts. You help me in my desire to be the most empathetic person I can be.

      • Maybe the idealist side is still intact but functions differently. Maybe in a smaller sphere, or in a way appropriate to one’s circumstance. I don’t know maybe I’m rationalizing! (In any case I think you are the one who helps people connect with and feel their empathic sides!)

      • Thank you Lynn. Really. Thank you. My poor idealist, she gets battered around a lot, but she is one tough cookie! And maybe it is because she sees, gets bruised, but recovers that she can, as you said, help connect. Wow. That would be pretty darn awesome! So. I’m going to stick with your thought. Yep. That’s what I’m gonna do!!! :-)

  11. Thank you for your post, seem that we have many things in common. Each and everyone of us have to deal with our story, we can be rich and after become poor, everyone have something in common:the color of our blood. I think we can grow together to a better understanding of one another.

    • I like that because it is so very simple, the color of our blood is what we have in common. Thank you for seeing the commonality amongst us. And there is nothing wrong with noticing the differences as well, I would just prefer we use the differences as launching off points towards finding a way to get together rather than a reason to build an even bigger gulf. Thank you so much for stopping by, for reading and sharing your thoughts, they matter and I am grateful for them!

Talk to me...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s