Privilege and Opportunity

On a field trip with the Higher Education class to Penn St Mont Alto this past Thursday, we began with a brief introduction during which time we played a game. The students and teachers stood in a straight line, and the admissions counselor asked question pertaining to language, place of birth, education, etc.. For example, one of the questions was, “Do you typically speak a language other than English at home?” Depending on the answer, we would either step forward or backward. After about 10 questions we stopped and observed that the two that had moved the farthest forward were myself and the other teacher. At the back were female students who had recently moved to the United States from Mexico.

After the game, we took a few moments to discuss its significance. The game was meant to demonstrate the challenges and obstacles that come with being a part of a migrant family. I couldn’t help but feel a little bit guilty looking back at the students. I did not do anything to deserve to be at the front of the group. However, thinking about it, I believe that there is no reason for me to feel guilty if I do not take what I have for granted. I live a very fortunate life; I have everything I could ever ask for, but I should not feel guilty if I take advantage of the opportunities given to me.

White privilege is without a doubt an issue in the United States. We are granted more opportunities in this country solely based on the color of our skin. Furthermore, gender creates yet another obstacle.It is unfair, but it is a reality. With that being said, the activity was not designed as a discouraging tool to the students. The admissions counselor, who had gone through the migrant education program, said how he would have been at the back of the group, but he worked hard and took advantage of every opportunity in order to build his own life. The head teacher echoed this point. He stressed that a woe is me attitude only exacerbates the issue. Migrant Education gives the students a system of support and encourages the hard work that is necessary to overcome the obstacles that come with race and gender. It was truly inspiring to see the way the students reacted to the game. It was obvious that it had an impact on them. And it has inspired me thus far to see the determination and desire to improve their situations.

Nate Cody ’16