Rich. White. Male. While I might contest the first descriptor as I sit here pondering my student loan payments and having come into my 30s with essentially no savings, this is me. I, like many others today, are a set of descriptors, allowing us to place others into some tidy box. I fit this description, and I feel the pressure of expectation and of guilt. Is the guilt I feel my own or is it generational? It feels like my own, but I haven’t been sure what I’ve done to deserve it. But, now I’m realizing it’s what I haven’t done.
About two years ago, something happened that should have been a spark for me. Our country unexpectedly changed, our world and our lives changed. I thought it would be a motivator for me rekindle my past for the betterment of tomorrow. Sounds grandiose, I know, but instead my motivations languished. Month after month, I thought about those descriptors: rich, white, male. I watched as the world, nay, as the people responded, standing up for themselves. I was made hopeful again by their vision and accomplishments. I saw something growing as they fought their oppression. But was it not I who was the oppressor?
I know this guilt I feel is little compared to the defeat many experience.
I look back across my career: special and non-traditional education, disability rights and advocacy, human-centered design. I’ve done something, something that I hope is worthwhile. I’ve wanted to do more for a couple of years, but I haven’t known what or how. I’ve learned lately that there are ways to do it right and ways to do it wrong. I worry that I’ve done it wrong in the past, but I’m hopeful that I can do it better moving forward.
There’s so much to be done by all and for many. Even here in this seemingly idyllic haven in which I live, I’m beginning to learn that there’s much to do. While I spent a couple of years thinking I was the wrong person. I’m now realizing that it’s not about who I am but rather how I do it. There’s something we all can do. It takes listening and learning, approaching people with empathy and, if it’s truly possible to achieve, compassion.
As I write this, I’m not exactly sure what’s next. I read often, sharing important messages with people who care. I approach my work with a belief in making life a little better. And I’m now viewing this guilt not as a burden but as a motivator that’s meant to keep me moving in the right direction.