The Privilege Bubble
|April 6, 2013||Posted by admin under Musings||
While enjoying some pizza earlier this week, a friend posed the question, “What was your favorite part of the LO (Lake Oswego) Woodshop class?” The three of us at the table chuckled. If you missed the joke, it’s because we never had such a class. Our education was based around the idea that we would be getting the jobs that allowed us to pay others to do that work. At the very least, our dads already knew the trades so what was the point of us learning?
Little did we or the people that signed off on cutting vocational programs know that we were pulling the rug of privilege from under our feet. This lack of foresight and gluttony of privilege is getting ready to reach a breaking point. There is no shortage of people that justifiably hate LO for its arrogance and concentration of wealth. If you are one of these people, I suggest patience and a good disaster capital plan because the privilege bubble is about to burst and few places are as deserving of a good pillaging.
There is a difference between good towns and good-looking ones. For all its wealth, LO is certainly the latter. Common parenting issues like neglect, hypocrisy and substance abuse are just as prevalent in LO as anywhere. Epidemic levels of white privilege (in many cases, outright racism) and the involvement of far too many of these people in shady business deals only amplify these issues.
For example, look at the house flipping schemes around town. In an effort to keep the property values up, which conveniently prices many “undesirable” people (see: low-income and people of color) out of the community, these schemers unintentionally repackaged homes for prices that even those in LO could no longer afford. It’s easy to see the results when you drive around town and there are a plethora of empty new houses, which was especially bad during the height of the recession (not that we needed more consumers or more tax revenue).
What are the odds that the apples won’t fall far from the proverbial trees?
It’s bad enough that we are as medicated, both legally and illegally, a generation as ever and most of us have yet to face real consequences for it. That this same generation isn’t exposed to a diverse life experience (in fact, they often see the worst possible form of the opposite) doesn’t help either.
People I went to high school with are in the process of or have already been handed the reins to the family businesses. Not all of them were great scholars or even people any of would’ve seen running a business in their 40s, much less 20s. Imagine a bunch on Kim Jong-Uns without the grooming. They might not have their fingers on the nuclear button but they control the town’s economy.
In this ever-changing world, it’s bad enough that these heirs are taking control of businesses without all the context of their predecessors. The inability of many to interact with non-white and/or non-privileged people is going to catch up with them. No matter how much “post-racial” Kool-Aid some of these people have been fed, when they, most likely unknowingly, insult business owners and representatives of color, eventually people will take their business elsewhere.
In the meantime, the landscape is already changing. I never thought I’d see the day when LO had a Wal-Mart, not to mention another one nearby in West Linn.
I use to point to LO as an example of the economic empowerment. It wasn’t too long ago when almost all the businesses you saw in the town were small family firms. In Malcolm X’s speech, “The Ballot or the Bullet,” he discusses how the proverbial white man sets up his businesses in the Black community and after he closes shop for the night, he takes all those profits back across town and reinvests them in his community. With the arrival of Wal-Mart, the dynamic has shifted from the proverbial white man taking advantage of the Black community to the even bigger white man getting one over on the white community too.
(Malcolm X discusses economics at 6:54.)
Perhaps the biggest irony of my friend’s aforementioned woodshop joke is that LO High use to have an award winning woodshop program. There are still some houses around LO that those students built. The same people that decided to phase out those programs are the same racist idiots who are complaining because they see Latinos building things all around town today. It’s a delicious case of the tortoise and the hare.
My friend recently told me that on the bus ride to work, she found herself in the rare situation where there were only Black people in a public space in LO. All the people on the bus were transiting to work. Even though residents might degradingly look down on these people as “the help,” what’s really going on is the flipping of Malcolm’s discussion of economic empowerment.
While landlords, business owners, politicians, etc. are forcefully fighting the expansion of affordable housing under the guise that it will lower property values, and consequently keep the low-income and people of color out (there is Section 8 housing around LO but it’s mostly hidden and about as diverse as the rest of the town), they are simultaneously dependent on those they look down upon. As a result, these people who are only accepted within city limits as “the help” can take their earnings and spend it on propping up their local businesses, donating to area schools, and funding other resources that build up their communities.
People in LO are as hungry for services as ever. If you have a skill that’s in demand and a sustainable business plan, this is the time to get a piece of the action.
Are you a musician? Try and book gigs at the Gemini. Can you cut hair? Rent a chair at one of the local barbershops. Do you have interest in cooking, especially ethnic food? People here are starving for diversity in their dining options. Do you coach or specialize in skill training? There is no shortage of parents that will pay top dollar to give their kids that extra edge on the field. Are you proficient in the trades? Just walk around town with your eyes open and you’ll find plenty of things to build or repair.
Do you do cultural competency training? Eventually business owners are going to see an effect on their bottom line if they don’t figure out how to communicate. No matter how stubborn they may be, they’ll be more than willing to pay a person of color and *gasp* actually listen if it means not losing the family business.
People are picking up on the increasing demands for goods and services, as well as the increasing lack of do-it-yourself incentive and training in this town. Wealthy communities have preyed upon less privileged ones forever. This is the far less common opportunity to profit off of Rome before it burns. Wal-Mart and other corporations shouldn’t be the only ones that get their hands on all this disposable income.