People of “Privilege”

What would you risk for the chance at a better life?  If you are like me, then probably not much.  That is not to say that I haven’t sacrificed a lot in the pursuit of happiness.  I am a poor graduate student who has spent the last three years living in a different state than my wife because we both are following our career paths.  I rarely ever get to see friends or family.  Sleep has become more like a fond memory than a regular occurrence.  I’m here in south Texas volunteering my time to dig in a cemetery in the summer when temperatures average around  100 degrees.  When I compare the things that I have forfeited in the hopes of a better existence, it seems trivial when considered next to the tribulations of the people who try to cross the border.

A few weeks ago, several UIndy students and I had a conversation with Robin Reineke, an anthropologist who works on migrant deaths in Pima County, Arizona.  One of the things we discussed was the concept of “people of privilege”.  Let me take a moment to be abundantly clear:  This is not a diatribe about class warfare, and has nothing to do with social status.  By Robin’s definition, “privilege” meant not fearing death from starvation.  “Privilege” means no fear from institutionalized violence, or being killed for your political views.  The “privilege” lies in never actually considering those horrific events and never believing that they would actually happen to you.

This is my second year in Falfurrias.  It is both the most difficult and rewarding endeavor that I have ever undertaken.  It is both incredibly rewarding yet emotionally draining.  When I talk to other people about my work, they inevitably ask, “How has it changed you?”  In truth, it hasn’t.  I am the exact same “person of privilege” that I have always been.  I do not fear for my life or well-being, nor do I fear oppression or starvation.  The only thing that has changed is but the smallest notion of what might motivate another human being.  The only real difference is but a few lingering questions in the back of my mind.

Now, Let me rephrase the question.  What would drive you to walk across the desert?  What would cause you to abandon everything and everyone you knew and loved, just for the opportunity that your life might be better?  What might you give up for the chance at a better life?  Would you be willing to die knowing that your children might live without those fears?  How far would you go for that “privilege”?

Justin

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