It’s really easy to isolate yourself from the world; you go to work, head home, spend time with family and friends, and just go about your life, safely contained within a small circle of people with (largely) the same likes and dislikes, thoughts, and socio-economic standing.
I’ve lived in the city for a long time now… Roughly 16 of the past 18 years, actually. And I mean city-city, not the suburbs. Over that time, I’ve seen quite a swath of humanity and slowly became more aware of the disparate living conditions found within your typical urban area (particularly southern California, which draws homeless people out into the open due to the temperate clime).
But riding the bus to and from one of the poorest areas in Minneapolis cast a spotlight on just how differently I live than many other people in the area. I’d see someone, usually shabbily-dressed, climb onto the bus in the middle of winter and found myself asking “Are they going somewhere or just getting out of the cold for a few minutes?” I’d see someone dozing off on the bus and wonder what that person’s life was like outside the snapshot I saw at that moment. Do they have friends? A family? Or even a roof over their heads?
They’re important questions that I, as a white man, need to ask myself constantly; a reminder that the relative comforts I enjoy in life are not universal within my own neighborhood, much less state or nation. As far as social constructs go, I won the genetic lottery. That’s not something to be proud of because I had no input on the matter, just as the people around me didn’t have input on where, when, or how they were born.
And it’s more than a little bit fucked up that I “won” simply by being born. That I “won” by being raised in a house that believed education and studies were important. That I “won” by simply being white and male.
That doesn’t mean I feel sympathy for those not fortunate enough to receive my birth status… Well, “sympathy” isn’t the right word, anyway. I didn’t create the social constructs that empower me any more than I chose the color of my skin or my gender at birth. But, at the very least, I should acknowledge those differences and try to avoid perpetuating them onto younger generations and society at large. It is, quite literally, the least I should do in life.