I would learn a lot about myself, but I really didn’t. Instead of learning I prefer to see it as I came to a realization about my life. And that was, that I am so very privileged, more then I had ever thought of before. “The Walk of Privilege” that I took in my Anth 280 class made me see how very lucky I am. While we as a class all started in the same spot, on the same line, we all ended up very far away from each other. Some of us ahead of the line, and some of us behind the line. While doing this exercise not once did I take a step back.
I took fourteen steps forward though. Fourteen steps forward and no steps back is proving how privileged I really was. I learned that even though I thought I had it “rough” sometimes as a kid, there were so many people who had it much worse. I saw that in my class. When “The Walk of Privilege” exercise was over and I was counting my steps backwards to the starting line a lot of my class was counting their steps forward to the starting line. That means that they just had so many more struggles then I would have ever imagined having in my life.
Yet, we all have been accepted and are attending University of Illinois which is a nationally ranked school, and one of the best research universities in the nation. What did I learn about my classmates from our collective Walk of Privilege? Well I learned that I had an extremely easy life compared to some people. One question that stuck out in my head after our collective walk was the one about food. “If you ever had to skip a meal or were hungry because there was not enough money to buy food when you were growing up, take one step back. This was question twelve on our collective Walk of Privilege and when I saw a good group of my class step back a piece of my heart broke for them. This small discussion class of only 17 people grew to be a very vital and important part of my week. Even though we did not agree on every subject this group made me feel at home even when though I am so far away from home. Going to this class was something I looked forward to every week and to see how many people could not afford food at one point or another was very sad to me.
Another thing I noticed was that some people in the class didn’t end up where I thought they would have. I had presumed that a couple of the girls that I had become close with would be up with me, further away from the starting point, but they weren’t. The two of them stuck close together, which I attributed to the fact they grew up in the same place, yet still they were not close to me. I have my personal opinions and thoughts as to why they were not close to me, but I don’t feel as if it is right or necessary to discuss the reasons why I presume they were not further away from the starting line.
When I say the word America the first thoughts that come to mind are; united, we are all the same, pursuit of happiness, freedom, etc. But, after our collective Walk of Privilege I have come to realize that is what America used to represent but not so much anymore. How can we call ourselves united or one in the same when even in just a class of 17 there is such diversity. Much of my class is from the same state, Illinois, and even then they are all so different.
America used to be a place where you could find freedom, and create your own happiness but now it is a place of such diversity, poverty, and corruption that it is nearly impossible to call us all one. An article that really puts this into perspective for me was, “Crack in Spanish Harlem: Culture and Economy in the Inner City” by Philippe Bourgois. In this article Bourgois writes on the cultures of Spanish Harlem and how once you are in the drug or sex business it is hard to get out, and that it is hard to get out of Spanish Harlem in general even if you aren’t involved in those businesses.
The thing is, is that this article is written about a place in America. I know I didn’t grow up in a place anywhere like this. I grew up in a quaint little coastal town in Maine. This is why I can’t see America as united, or that everyone in America is “one in the same. ” I pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all. This is what our country and we as American’s are supposed to live our lives.
Yet, in all of our readings I feel as if America is anything but indivisible. Privilege, opportunity, and life course, well these are all words I never thought I had in my life until I did the Walk of Privilege and read all the articles for class. I grew up in a middle class, white, Christian family, in an all white neighborhood, in the state of Maine, which was voted the most peaceful state to live in the past eleven years. I didn’t have a rough life, and I don’t have a sob story about how my parents were divorced and it was so hard growing up or anything.
I learned I am so lucky, and that I should never take what I have for granted. Being 14 steps ahead of the We are a nation with 312,780,968 people. We all have different pasts, different futures, different religions, different races, and opportunities. The only common factor is that we are Americans. And yet we all take the Walk of Privilege everyday. It may not be that we take steps forward everyday or steps back. We may stand in place for a long time, but at least we are trying.
Some of us end up way ahead of the starting line. This doesn’t mean we are better then those close to the line or far behind it. The people who are behind the starting line just had different battles then those more privileged. The fact that they are still fighting, and trying to find their happiness weather it be pursuing their education, or finding a better payed job, at least they are fighting.
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