A sobering glimpse into a life devoid of privilege

Privilege is something I was not always aware of, but has always been on my side.

I was not born a baby with the proverbial silver spoon. I grew up in a middle class city in a modest middle class house. I am one of those who “worked hard for what I have” and never received anything. But let’s be honest. Growing up in the middle class, with two caring parents, and being Caucasian and male, I was designed to be successful.

No one told me I couldn’t go to a private college in another state, I never had to help my parents pay a bill or take care of my brother so my parents could work the night. I never had to think that it might be difficult to pay off my law school loans or that it would be difficult to find a job. This freedom, this lack of obstacles and never believing in “no” was the privilege granted to me only because I was born.

As an adult, my privilege as a white man is like compound interest. I have built a successful career because I was able to attend a private college and law school of my choice. I own my third home because I was able to get a mortgage for the first and defaulting was never an option. I have a wife who allows us to share the babysitting time, so that I can get involved in groups and organizations, thus increasing my contacts throughout the community. All of these things that I work for, but there is never a barrier to my work for it. I never doubt that I can do something or have something that I want.

That is, until now. I am one of those who really want – and I mean really – the COVID-19 vaccine. But since Connecticut started its vaccine rollout, I haven’t been able to get it. I am 39 years old. For the first time, I experience a system that intentionally puts obstacles in my way; a government-designed system that prioritizes individuals based on their attributes. Watching the news and reading the governor’s press releases, I waited for my attribute to manifest. Essential workers were considered as a priority group. It never materialized. When it was finally announced, I was placed in the group that our government deemed the least important. I didn’t matter, not because of something I did, but only because of my birth – something beyond my control.

How could it be? The government had never intentionally stood in the way of what I wanted. Most of the time the government kindly ignored me or put in place programs to help me. It was a change.

Worse still, there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t call anyone I knew to cut the line (and, trust me, I know it’s a privilege to even say I can call people I know for help). I couldn’t buy a more expensive ticket to get closer to the vaccine. My privilege benefits had been removed.

I’ve seen friends who are educators, first responders, everyone in my office, and all of my family get vaccinated. I was bored, helpless, frustrated, deflated and jealous. Sometimes I felt pure anger at the system.

Of course, on April 1, I became eligible for my shooting, so I knew it would pass. And having a car, a woman who can watch the kids, and constant internet access (it’s all part of this cumulative privilege) will make it simple enough for me to get the vaccine and the benefits my privilege has created will once again be evident. . But for this one case in time and for this one desire in life, I could not knowingly or unknowingly take advantage of the 39 years of privilege I have.

I’m certainly not looking for sympathy – in fact, it’s the opposite; it’s embarrassing how much i have it. I hope that if any of you felt something similar to this, you can begin to empathize with those who face these challenges in all aspects of their lives.

I can’t even begin to understand the pain and frustration and anger that a lifetime of government and societal obstacles would have. In the short time that I have wanted to receive the vaccine, I have been appalled that the government does not care about me. Can you imagine always feeling that your government didn’t care about you or, worse yet, was actively working against you?

Imagine that frustration when you know there is always an obstacle to your goals. When you have no one to call or no way to remedy your children’s education, the crime on your street, the lack of doctors who will put you without insurance, the location of the nearest grocery stores or one of the myriad of things we deal with on a daily basis.

Being a white man, it’s hard to recognize that privilege plays a role in your life, especially when you’re working hard. But when you realize that you cannot use your privilege, you have only the faintest idea how demoralizing, exasperating and overwhelming life can feel every day for so many people in our community.

Carl A. Glad is chairman of the board of directors of the Sterling House Community Center in Stratford, a member of the board of directors of the Southwestern Connecticut Agency on Aging and a member of the City of Stratford Commission on Aging. The opinions expressed in this piece are hers.

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