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Tynt

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Privilege of the Underprivileged…


The Privilege of the Underprivileged... or should I say, The Plague of the Privileged...

The words themselves clash when placed together... They seem to fight against each other as if they were never meant to be joined in the same breath...
Even reading it out loud, it doesn't slide off my tongue as easily as if I were to exchange the word "privilege" with "pain", "struggle" or simply "disadvantage." All because my mind (with all the preset), preconceived notions can't really conceptualize an underprivileged group of people, having any privilege...
Oxymoron... Not really. Sarcasm... It could be, if that is how I intended it to be. But truly, while I still find it paradoxical and absurd that what and who (in today's society) we consider underprivileged could have privileges, I can't help but to come up with that possibility… I considered this to be a certain truth after my last visit to my homeland, The Republic Democratic of Congo.

"To say someone is underprivileged is to imply that there is a standard of privileges to which everyone is entitled, privileges that have been unjustly withheld from the underprivileged."

I wanted to bring my children to Africa for several reasons. For starters, I wanted them to know where their mother was from; I wanted them to not only know about their origins but to a degree, give them the opportunity to experience their origins… I wanted them to understand and be able to accurately describe when asked, “What are your origins?” They really understood the “African” and the “American” part of being African American because they had the chance to live it… This was probably the most ambitious reason of all as we were only scheduled to be there for a short period of time…
A less ambitious reason, but nevertheless important, was that I wanted them to live realness, to know why compassion really needed to exist. I needed to show them life on the other side; life lived differently, so an exceeding sense of appreciation for what they have would make them even better humans (and members of the global society) than what they already are.
I wasn’t taking them to give myself proof or validity to the “great” upbringing we are giving them but more so for them to know they had no ground to stand on as far complaining was concerned.

Before the trip I gave them a rundown of what to expect (at least what my blurry memory remembers from my time visiting the RDC). In retrospect, I can see myself giving a “judgmental” heads up, while comparing the culture we live in (in America) and the one we were about to visit - comparing what defined progress to me, with what I felt were natural rights and accessibilities all humans must have, with what I felt they were robbed of. While a culture shock was going to happen for certain, I wanted them to be prepared at least mentally, so the experience wouldn’t be a traumatic one…                                                                           

I would love one day to have one of my children share with all of us what the experience had been for them. Telling us what they got out of it, what they learned from it (if anything)… I can’t tell you if I succeeded.
I hope I did succeed, not through the visions I put in their mind but because like me, they saw the reality of this different life through the eyes of the people we were in contact with… It’s safe to assume that their own eyes had been tainted by my warnings


We went to places in what we call cities. We visited areas that we would call suburbs. We drove through what we would call villages and through it all, I was judging against what I know to be the norm in my daily life… what I know to be my given rights to have, the minimal expectancy I thought we (as people) should be granted. I judged against my definition of progress… not excessive… marginal progress at best.

On our way to one of the most beautiful resorts outside the capital of Kinshasa, our convoy that consisted of a bus and 3 SUV’s drove through kilometers of red sanded road. Shacks and makeshift “homes” were on each side of the road. Our passage was leaving falling red dust long after the last car had passed. The rear view mirror couldn’t tell us if anyone one was behind us and while we couldn’t clearly see the car in front of us; we knew we were all together, as the mini sand storm we were creating was proof of the one just in front of us. All of the sudden we would see little ones, barefoot, partially dressed, running beside the cars, trying to keep up, laughing, waiving at us.
I couldn’t see the smiles on their faces… I couldn’t see the sparkles in their eyes and the fun they were having, because all I could think was, how could anyone live like this? All of this sand and excruciating heat. No paved streets, just rough-and-ready passage ways we called roads. How could they breathe in the polluted air? How can they function without… everything, how… how… how… HOW? So many questions preventing me from opening my eyes and seeing…
Seeing that even though we are the ones destroying their environments to make ourselves temporarily comfortable, they still had joy and found ways to work with the changes we brought…


 

To be happy is so tangible if we simply reach for it…







We parked the cars and started walking. My professional camera on hand, I start taking pictures… I could only take candid pictures as so many things were appearing in front of me. Little ones running around laughing, some playing hide and seek with me, some walking to or from the market with a load on top of their heads, and finally some approaching us so we could take pictures of them…
I stopped for a moment and showed a few of them pictures they had allowed me to take. And while they were giggling at their own images, I realized how life can be so cruel…
I was finally seeing the sparkles in their eyes, the white of their teeth from the beautiful smiles they had, the joy in their lives while showing us their dance moves to the beat of the music in their head; the pride they had from having us walk their ground… I was finally seeing genuine happiness and I was left speechless...  

The Privilege of the Underprivileged

While I will probably continue to consider most of those villagers and habitants of the underdeveloped countries “Underprivileged” – not because I still believe that there are natural rights that should not be granted, but to the contrary should be a given in anyone’s life in today’s world, however that justice is not yet reality – I have realized regardless of what I know to be an injustice, they do have privileges that most of us can only dream of… and one of them is The Privilege of unaffected, candid, unconditional happiness…
The easy road to happiness is what they march on every day. It is what they were blessed with. Because their lives have not been tainted by the materialistic, conditional relationships, or reward base competitions… they live by recognizing and appreciating the life they are given…the blessing that is to just be.
We in turn we have lost that candidness, we wallow at lost opportunities, we strive and only thrive when we get more than… our level of acceptability is based on a materialistic culture giving happiness a threshold, at times very difficult to attain.

How do I teach my children to forget all they have ever known to be true because only then they will know that everyone’s reality (different, and yet at times similar) has a value only an open mind and open heart will be able to appreciate…
In this last trip to my home I have finally learned that I could have been looked at as the savage and as the underprivileged one. And more importantly, I would give away much to have that sparkle in my eyes…


RosieSandz
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