As we have begun to sink into our monthly schedule and are finally able to catch our breath, my housemates and I have been able to get acclimated within our neighborhood and service sites. While we have been meeting and establishing more relationships with those around us, we are starting to find that the things our neighbors care about and deem important have started to become important to us as well. I think my house has done a great job of creating space to have conversations with each other surrounding the things we are noticing and the things going on around us.
As we have started to have these conversations more regularly, I have noticed many themes that keep reappearing throughout my week. One of those themes revolves around the idea of privilege. Being a Chicana in America I never thought I carried as much privilege as I do and never tied any privilege that I do or do not carry to my or my family’s background. However, through many conversations with co-workers, housemates, and members of the community I have started to become aware of the privilege that I may or may not carry and the same for those around me. While many may not usually pin awareness and privilege together, the concept of being aware of one’s privilege is something that one of my co-workers has challenged me with. She has been teaching me that in any given moment I either carry more or less privilege than those around me and that my privilege could fluctuate in different settings. That being said, she has provided me with new lenses as I become mindful of the different environments that cause me to interact with different people with different or even similar backgrounds as me. In turn, this has also caused me to become more mindful with how I behave and speak to or around others. At home, this theme of privilege becomes apparent and plays an important role when discussing the dynamics of our house and living in our Houston neighborhood. While I stated earlier that I never tied much privilege to being Chicana American, living in South Union and in a house with 7 other women of different races and ethnicities has taught me otherwise.
Being that I am living in a predominantly African-American and Latino community, myself and my housemates who are women of color are adjusting to being a part of the majority and being seen as such, while my white housemates are having to adjust to now being a minority and also being seen as such. This transition into our new roles and statuses has created space for some very good but hard conversations amongst my household. These conversations, along with some of the stories my housemates and coworkers have shared, have pressed me to become aware of the privilege I hold. However, becoming aware has also caused me to realize and acknowledge the many biases and prejudices I had or still have. This entire process of becoming aware and accepting my own personal privilege has generated room for me to reevaluate the things I hold as true or untrue. It will be interesting to see how my roles and statuses will continue to fluctuate during and after my Mission Year.
Abby Salazar is a current Mission Year Houston team member. Originally from Woodbridge, VA, she attended Chowan University. Learn more by visiting her donation page.