Thoughts on Privilege

I have a few thoughts about privilege that I would like to share. 

While doorbelling, I am acutely aware that as a tall, white male, I feel safe going door to door all the way up to 9:00pm on summer nights. And because of my race, I will most likely not be stopped by police as I canvas the largely white neighborhoods of District 6.

What is interesting is that while I am privileged in certain ways, on the flip side of the coin, I am not . . . . .

I am a profoundly deaf man who communicates by speaking, reading lips, and using cochlear implants. Profound deafness means that without my cochlear implants I hear nothing. This characteristic places me in the category of “marginalized” groups. And people with sensory disabilities like hearing loss and blindness or other mobility, developmental, or learning disabilities typically face more discrimination, have to educate people more about who they are, and face more issues with access. They have to work harder to get jobs because they have to prove to people that they are just as capable of doing the job as anyone else.

As a mentor for the Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology (DOIT) program at the University of Washington, I have met many young people with disabilities. It is inspirational to hear their stories and to be able to share mine. As a young man, I did not have access to such mentors, who I believe are important for supporting people with disabilities.

I believe my disability creates a vulnerability that I think allows me to reach across divides to people. In my doorbelling, I find that I often have wonderful chats and develop strong connections with people of color or people with a disability. I cherish these talks because they affirm that I am not alone and that I am part of a community that shares similar issues.

In my work as a trainer for the City of Seattle’s Race and Social Justice initiative, we have talked a lot about privilege and the power that comes with us. I am proud of the trainings on this topic that I have co-facilitated with community members ranging from middle school girls at an all-girls school to visitors at an exhibit on science and race at the Pacific Science Center. It is vital to have these community dialogues to promote understanding and create bridges among people of different backgrounds. I believe that our elected officials need to foster these dialogues as well, and I would commit to doing that as a city councilmember.

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