Privileges: One Contribution to Vassar College's 'Privilege Campaign'

In December of 2013, colleagues of mine at Vassar College organized Photographs from Vassar College's Privilege Campaign, "... a gallery showing of Vassar administrators, faculty and staff portraits (photos) and their individual meditations on their identities, privileges and lack of privileges." A very cool project. This (below) is my contribution.

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I am a highly educated, prosperous, straight, white man.

I always get the benefit of the doubt.

No one is ever surprised or concerned or confused or threatened when I enter a classroom, a bank, a store, an elevator, a church, an expensive restaurant, a college campus, or a conversation.

No one asks: who let him in? What is he doing here?

My parents never warned me to keep my hands where the police could see them, to submit to authority, or to fear that my ambitions might be stifled by bias or prejudice. To the contrary! My parents were outspoken and political. They struggled against social injustice with a deep confidence that challenging authority and prejudice would not cost them in any important way.

I didn't have serious worries about paying for college, or graduate school. When I was in school, I never worried that I might be undermining the financial well-being of my family.

No one ever asks me to speak for all members of "my race," nor do I worry about whether my dress, speech, or behavior will enhance or damage perceptions of "my race."

I have never worried that my choice of a life partner might put me in physical danger.

I generally get a second chance and, often, a third and fourth chance. When I go to open a door, it usually opens.

This is equally true of my children. I don't worry that my kids will be stopped and frisked, asked to produce a receipt, or asked to explain themselves when they are doing nothing wrong. I have not warned them to keep their hands where the police can see them. If my kids get into trouble, I am confident that I can find a way to get them out of trouble.

We always get the benefit of the doubt.

Jim Hightower said of George H. W. Bush "he was born on third base, and he thinks he hit a triple."

I do my best to remember that I was born on second base.

-- Tim Koechlin, Director, International Studies Program