Paying Forward the Privilege
Ria explains her challenge with the idea of 'privilege' within the immigrant mindset.
Privilege is something I am thinking about pretty constantly.
White. Asian. Class. Able.
And generational privilege is one I’ve been weighing up more so in the last year. Often, I talk about breaking generational curses and boundaries but there is also an element of privilege when I think about opportunity.
The concept of making the most of the opportunities I have and being appreciative has been a guiding force in my life, most obviously when it comes to my education. I’ve talked about this before, but part of the immigrant mentality is being ‘grateful’ for everything put in front of you, and that’s not always as positive and necessary as it sounds. A huge challenge for me has been balancing being grateful but also feeling justified in where I find myself.
I am constantly reminding myself that I take up space in a room not because I’m filling a diversity quota or that I should be grateful for the chance, but because I actually worked my arse off to be there and I don’t need to justify my presence to anyone. It’s there that I find myself having to straddle, seeming grateful to my family for everything they did to get me there, but owning the huge part of it which is my own hard work too. Enter: guilt, stress, worry, etc etc etc….
I recently did my first in person work for Matriarch.
It was a BIG moment for me. I proved that my work and ideas of the past 2 years were valid and worthy. I knew that my concept worked and there are so many exciting things to come. And I’ve really been thinking about how multilayered this experience was for me. This wasn’t just any other talk or workshop.
This was a full circle moment where I came back to a school, the very environment where I was denied access to knowledge about myself and my heritage, where I first came into contact with racism, sexism and all the other ‘-isms’ that have restricted me in some way. After having learnt about all these things and making something out of it, I came back to the environment where they were inflicted on me, to discuss them with pupils and start to break that cycle somewhat. The cycle being issues caused by a lack of knowledge or access to it that thereby alienate people.
Doing some justice for my family. And myself.
I really felt for the first time that I was striking the balance between showing gratitude to the people I came from and paying it forward to future generations of young people living under these pressures - I was doing myself and my family a bit of justice there. And so when I talk about privilege here, I mean the privilege to be able to do this so loudly through a platform like Matriarch without feeling in genuine danger or harm. I know that my parents could not have done this with the same freedom I am able to.
And that comes from them having created more space and rigidity in our existence as their daughters.
I really do feel so much gratitude for my parents especially for the space and time they have provided for me and my sisters. But I think I’m more comfortable in also appreciating where my efforts have paid off to get me where I am now. Ultimately, no one told me I could. And there have been many a time I have wondered whether this is the right thing for me, whether Matriarch is what I should be doing. Since around October 2021, I haven’t really questioned that once and last weeks milestone of in person work solidified that even more.
I am so grateful for where I am but instead of just paying it back, I want to pay it forward. I want our work at Matriarch to show that you can do both - appreciative but also able to separate yourself as not tied down to generational burden. You’re not just here because of what your relatives did for you, but because of what you’re doing for yourself. And you can have pride in both. Some (more traditional) people will tell you you’re ungrateful for this, but that is honestly bullshit. Even writing this now, I realise actually how powerful (but also meta) this all is - to be able to write about breaking generational burden so openly with the hope that it will help someone else to do so.
I’m thinking out loud now, but occasionally, you get those moments where things just feel right.
This is one of those.