Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Where are you and why?

Where are you and why? I ask myself this question a lot, especially in the past 5 years since I have found myself in many different places. But before I can even answer this question, I get all tied up in the question itself. It is an interesting one in and of itself because the mere fact that I get to ask myself this in the context that I do, places me in a position of privilege. Privilege is something that I struggled with throughout my college career when I became part of a group in society that was treated differently and granted different advantages, but dealing with this had never been so difficult until I came here.

Here of course being the Dominican Republic, the land where I was born and where both of my parents and all of my grandparents came from and the place where I have spent my last year and some change. Dealing with my privilege position here has been hard, frustrating and at times painful. You see I have always identified myself with being oppressed.  Growing up in a low income community, being discriminated against, and later understanding how and why societies perpetuate all of these factors that keep people behind, has allowed me to not only feel marginalized, but most importantly to identify myself with others that are oppressed. Being here has not changed this feeling of fighting for and with the oppressed like I have done throughout my life. But let’s face it, being here as an American, college educated, who speaks 3 languages, who has an American passport that allows me to travel almost anywhere, puts me in a position of power and privilege whether I want to be placed there or not. I hate it. When I place America as an advantage, I do it not because of my feelings about being an American, but because of the esteem and value that Dominicans place on America and everything American—the land of opportunities, where my parents went.

Let me be clear, by privilege I don’t necessarily mean money or physical assets, but other things, some tangible some not.  I have electricity 98% of the time, running water 80% of the time, I can afford certain things that others can’t (simple things like taking a cab a few times a month, or going out for pizza once in while), I get to leave the island and buy things cheaper elsewhere, and I get to leave and come back period.

I will be honest and say that before here I didn’t really take the time to figure out how I would deal with this when I got here. Many times I just feel sorry for myself. Although I haven’t figured out the best way to deal with this, I know that being sorry for myself or for others is not the way. I've worked really hard for everything I have accomplish and there is no need for those feelings. Don’t get me wrong, I completely disagree with the idea of a Meritocracy—you get what you earn so work hard—because I know that it’s not how it works, I am an exception to a rule.  Most people work hard and still find themselves in a bind, with debt, hunger (physically, emotionally and mentally), and with no way out.

I continue to feel oppressed and discriminated against even here, a place where my esthetics are not considered beautiful for reasons that are shared with the majority of the population—skin color, hair type, and other physical characteristics.  This is all way more complicated than what I can actually put into words right now. It’s an ongoing struggle that I’ve been dealing with for quite some time. Who said struggling is a bad thing; through it I am learning things about me that I like and other things that I want change. Although the truth is that I am a human being like everyone else, I feel. Oh yeah, where am I and why?

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this very much. I got to experience the feeling of being privileged while I was there for a few days. I know the person you are and I'm sure your goign to figure out where you are and the reasons.:)