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Class and Privilege

I still struggle with the idea of privilege. I grew up in an area where the school system just recently got taken over by the federal government, there was a crackhouse right across the street from my home, and at least 8 boarded up house on my block. I would call these the manifestations of poverty, but now I don’t know what to call myself. After two years at an Ivy+ school I have not come to terms with the privilege that I am receiving at this school. The separation that I now must struggle with as my chances have now skyrocketed and I am almost assured to enter into the middle class life after I finish my education. But most of all, I struggle with the idea of where I will fall between the tensions of middle class and lower class life. How I will transition between what Professor William Julius Wilson calls the truly disadvantaged and life after I leave school.

The tension of these two groups is what worries me. I want to live in a neighborhood where I can interact with all socio-economic backgrounds and try to be a positive figure in my neighborhood and contribute to a social buffer that can make the lives of the people around me easier. I have learned that when the middle class returns to the inner city they don’t come empty handed. They bring better schools, stores, and recreational facilities with them. Things I wish someone had the power and influence to bring to my neighborhood in Cleveland. Things that two former East Cleveland mayors (who were both crooked, and one still in Jail for it) didn’t care enough to bring.

When looking at the Kenwood neighborhood in Chicago it is interesting to see the tensions that grew between the lower and middle class Black community. Differences in past experiences and current situations agitated the barriers that already existed between the two classes. These barriers initiated conflicts in opinion when deciding on various issues in the community. For example, when the block club was trying to decide if they would take down the public pay phone the difference in opinion revolved around what they experienced within their socio-economic background. The middle class Blacks said it was a security issue and a resource for drug dealers. But the lower class population of the Kenwood neighborhood counter argued that people who don’t have cell phones might need pay phones, not for any drug use, but for emergencies or other pertinent situations. The difference in class experience caused the people in the community to think differently about an issue they both faced.

It is small differences like this that I fear, that I will be disconnected from the neighborhoods that I was once a part of. That I will be less tolerant to the issues faced in poverty, and that people who are in poverty will be less tolerant of me helping them. Ultimately the point is, with privilege comes disconnection with a lower class of people that I want to dedicate my life to helping. For now the solution will be using these resources (that I have on my campus and in life) to help those from neighborhoods that were like mine when I was in grade school.