HARD WORK OR PRIVILEGE?

Abby Aguilar

As I write this word document, I tremble in fear trying to search for the right words to say without trying to offend someone else. What you are about to hear may feel uncomfortable and unpleasant, but that is necessary in order for evolution and growth. I was forced to put “blanket statements” over my true feelings because then I would be mistaken as someone who is either uneducated or overly outraged. I can no longer place blanket statements over how I feel. I am exhausted from the constant criticism I have faced and the damage that has already been made in my life. 

 

Before attending my arts school, I was really excited to collaborate with others. I’ve dreamed about creating fun projects within groups and helping others to become better artists as well as myself. It wasn’t until the second semester of Grade 9 that I felt out of place. Their Performing Arts programs are so heavily rooted in privilege. Some may argue that the teachers are very biased towards their productions, because the majority of their casting seems to be white. The teachers say “the ensemble matters” — which is indeed true, to create the bigger picture — but I have noticed that the main characters in every production have been predominantly white. And that’s saddening. For the longest time I had thought the program was fair and just with its choices, but it’s hard not to question whether or not there’s a subtle racial bias that lies underneath who’s favourited and most importantly, who gets the opportunity to perform.

One thing that’s for certain is that there is a constant barrier between my classmates and I.

Talking to one of the teachers, I had thought that it was solely because we couldn’t connect. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered the reasoning as to why. The majority of the people that I have met that aren’t the same skin tone or grew up in wealthier neighbourhoods, stepped all over me in order to be seen in the spotlight. It didn’t matter whether or not they hurt me and were unaware of it, their upbringing was completely different compared to mine — one that neither of us could ever change. 

I wish I could educate every single person on how it feels to be a “minority” (a word itself that feels like our communities are being degraded), but I never would have come to a conclusion, because we will always feel unequal. I wanted to create more than anything, and I was frowned upon having a voice as well as talent because I had made other girls feel insecure with how raw 

and realistic performance art can truly be. They would steal ideas without consent and deem it as their own, then get praised for it, because of course they were looked at first. Not the woman who was dark-skinned or slightly more tanned without any piercings or tattoos. The high horse they rode made it inevitable to accept that my voice was never going to be heard. So instead, I quit the program and gave up what I loved temporarily to sort things through. It is so hard to come to an understanding that we are here to perform together, to treat one another with respect and love in order to share meaningful pieces that create change throughout our communities and the world. 

The sense of entitlement comes from being spoiled at a young age. My elementary school was well near welfare housing communities where I was taught that everyone was equal, so I never saw anyone else having a lack thereof. As for my parents, my mother worked double at McDonalds and at a shoe store, whereas my father worked in a factory. 

Both of them valued hard work and created their futures organically as if they were creating art... just like their daughter, me. However, they too are cautious about my social climate and future. Being Filipino and Salvadoran, they were both marginalized and degraded for being authentic human beings trying to find a way to survive in a crucial world. That was 30 years ago. My mom is a nurse now and he’s an electric signals engineer. Not once did my parents boast about their money, but the amount of blood, sweat, and tears they put into their college tuition made them realize how hard it was to earn it. Meanwhile there were white kids that had university tuition handed to them because their parents had that opportunity for them first-hand, and they actually turned down offers instead of struggling to receive them. They became doctors and lawyers. In the end, one family faced more hardships in comparison to the other. 

 

Those were the people of colour. 

 

The ignorance that sprouted amongst them was carried all throughout high school. The rest are indifferent. It was unrealistic for me to pay $500 for dance lessons in a one-time sitting, because I was told I shouldn’t; not because I couldn’t. My parents wanted me to use that money by budgeting for other things instead.

Others owned cars that belonged to them and that they could drive, but I had parents that worked regularly needing to pay for the tuition of 4 kids instead of what used to be 2, so I have no choice but to use public transit. One way isn’t better than the other. It’s the significance of what is seen as a blessing, as well as taking into account the needs of others — Not being selfishly devoted to oneself. 

 

It just feels like I’ve been watering dead flowers that will never grow. But maybe, if I continue searching for ways to change things, maybe someday they will. Everything can be seen as a privilege, but it’s how we act towards others that matter. It’s important for us to be open to all walks of life, because not everyone’s story is the same. We need to pay attention to how others feel and how we treat them, because it’s important to know the history of someone’s culture and what’s appropriate or not. Lastly, we need to listen. How are we supposed to make the world a better place if none of us can learn from one another? Good question, Abby. We can’t. 

 

It’s hard to find a solution because these topics make white people feel uncomfortable, but there comes a certain point where we are tired of looking for answers. 

 

Change can only be made within ourselves. 

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