From Endurance to Dressage
Last week, a friend shared this article on Facebook. It's worth the read. I scored 94 points. Based on my score, I am among the very privileged.
I thought about that quiz the rest of the day. Do I think I am privileged? Yes, but more along the lines of it's an honor to be trusted by so magnificent a creature. Do I feel privileged in the sense that I have unearned or undue access to a lifestyle that others are denied? I don't.
I was raised by a single mom who came from a teenaged mom herself. My mom was a high school graduate with no skills who was married, divorced, and then the primary caregiver to two little girls by the time she was in her early twenties.
My mom dug deep. She got herself some training, worked a man's job, and did her damndest to avoid public assistance. As a little girl, I remember going with my mom to clean houses, pick fruit, and scrounge scrap metal to sell. My mom taught me to be a hard worker and to take responsibility for myself.
Neither my husband nor I feel a sense of entitlement. We're not owed anything. We don't "take." We don't expect the government to help us or fix things. We pay our taxes, go to work, and invest our money for retirement. While we are both of European descent, neither one of us gives a rat's ass what color you are or who you love. We won't judge you based on your color or gender, but we will judge you by your actions.
Before you criticize me for being insensitive or blind to the realities of the world we live in today, I get it. Not everyone has had the same "access" to the choices that I've had in front of me. By the same token, others have had more and better choices than me. I don't resent them for that.
My husband has expressed his frustration more than once about the recent movement that paints white men as oppressors who should feel guilty about their station in life. Should he donate his retirement to women who have been raped because it is men who perpetrate that crime? Should he be forced to give a portion of his salary to the NAACP because he makes more money than many black men?
Deep breath, Sweaney. I read the article. It made me think. Bigotry and racism have always made me angry. I am frustrated that there are assholes who force others to feel inferior or threatened or ashamed of who they are. But that's not me. That's not the man I married. I won't be made to feel guilty because of my European ancestry and gender.
I've been an elementary school teacher for nearly 30 years. I've seen more than one generation grow up, and I've seen a lot of changes over the past three decades. The one change that I am most excited about is the overwhelming diversity that I see in my classroom and my students' complete ignorance of racial lines. In fact, most of these kids have last names that don't seem to match their ethnicity.
All of these kids know that racism is "bad," that bullying is unacceptable, and that gender is becoming a fluid idea. That doesn't mean that this generation is going to solve the world's problems, because they won't. There are still kids who have parents who are blatant racists, homophobes, and bullies themselves. Those kids will struggle.
Is horse ownership a symbol of privilege? I never thought so, but I am not black, gay, mentally ill, or physically disabled. If I were one of those things, maybe I would feel differently. In the meantime, there are some who think that I don't get a say so because I am white, and in their view, white equals privilege. I am certain that many white kids do grow up with privilege, but so do many black and asian kids. I sure didn't feel privileged while I was picking walnuts and scrounging for scrap metal in a junker car. I felt poor and disadvantaged.
I was the first person in my extended family to graduate from college, but it wasn't easy. I worked part time jobs - sometimes several at a time, applied for and received a few grants and scholarships, and borrowed the rest to pay for college. My mom taught me that if I got an education and worked hard, I would be successful. She was right. Privilege wasn't any part of my growing up, but I wouldn't have turned my nose up at a college fund.
What about you? Did you take the quiz? What did you score? Do you feel "privileged?"
12/4/2019 09:06:26 am
I think anyone that can afford a horse or any other expensive hobby falls under the privileged category. And then to be able to compete in the hobby of your choice is a additional privilege. Regardless of how hard you work or where you come from, to have the financial means, and the time is a luxury and also demands a certain amount of selfishness to devote time and money resources away from family/society/community solely to your hobby. That being said..Yes, I have a horse/lessons/truck/trailer/shows. would I do more if I had more discretionary money yes. But I am at the top expense of my own financial pyramid. Could I put that money to better use with a better retirement plan or help to feed and vaccinate more of the population. Yes. Could I die tomorrow and not have anything anyway? Yes. So it's a balance of compromises. Financial responsibility and present enjoyment. It's a very complicated situation, and each person has to evaluate and make their own choices. Best wishes, Happy Trails!
12/4/2019 09:41:28 am
Thank you for sharing, Carol. I agree with everything you’ve said. I think many people would like for the world to be fair, and it isn’t. At least not yet any way. Maybe some day, everyone will be judged on their actions and not by the color of the their skin, their gender, or their sexuality.
There's a lot more to the concept of privilege than money or how someone grew up. We all work hard to be better riders and do our best with the resources we have, no one is saying that any one individual works harder or less hard based on the color of their skin.
12/4/2019 04:44:32 pm
My husband and I recently talked about walking in a parking lot at night or getting pulled over. I asked him if he is ever afraid. He's a big man at 6'3". Surprisingly, he said that he has to be situationally aware, too.
12/4/2019 11:09:07 am
I don't think that privilege is something you just have or don't have. I think it exists on many different scales within the same person. You clearly grew up with a very hardworking mother who did her best for you, and you worked hard alongside your mother to make a better life for yourself. Would I consider that a privileged childhood compared to my own, attending private school with both of my parents at home? Certainly not. What about in comparison to a child in a similar situation, whose sole caregiver was a drug addict unable to hold down a steady job and who fell in and out of the foster care system? Absolutely privileged. Do you and your husband benefit from your whiteness passively -- by not being looked askance at in a grocery store when you trudge in covered in the dust and sweat of a long day's ride, reeking of horse, and being judged as a dirty equestrian instead of a filthy potential thief? Probably. Does it mean you don't also work hard and participate as much in your community as possible? No.
12/4/2019 11:58:22 am
Thank you, Nicole. You expressed that very well. I would say that my husband and I acknowledge our privilege by first being grateful to our parents for raising us to be empathetic and hard working. Secondly, both of us work within our community to aid those less fortunate. My husband is a generous donor and is quick to offer assistance to complete strangers. My job is a constant exercise in giving. It’s not an exaggeration when you hear how much teacher’s spend. I am not sure I’ve ever shared this, but I speak Spanish fluently which means I do a lot of work with illegal and legal immigrants. Is this enough? Probably not.
12/4/2019 11:46:18 am
Nicole really hit it on the head - the thing with privilege that those with it don't realize is that it generally is passive. Especially when it comes to race. And saying things like "I don't see color" just doesn't work in this space - because color/race is a real thing that people have to deal with day to day. You are correct, you shouldn't feel guilty for what you didn't ask to be born with (cis, white, etc) but you can acknowledge it (as you have) and the next step is being a positive person, being a helpful person, being an educated on the issues person. Help those who can't help themselves. No one is asking your husband to donate his money to the underprivileged, but hey maybe because you've enjoyed a system that actively promoted the welfare and well being of one culture and you benefited from it - work towards promoting the welfare and well being of those who were actively worked against. This can come in the form of voting, volunteering, donating and otherwise lifting up the message and educating those who don't understand (I think it's great that you are a school teacher since they absolutely due help mold the future and you have the ability to touch so many kids lives). Honestly the biggest thing we need to combat is this idea that needing to plug into the social welfare of this country is 'taking'. It absolutely is not.
12/4/2019 04:25:02 pm
I don't think I've ever shared this, but I speak Spanish fluently. In fact, my degree is in liberal studies with an emphasis on language acquisition. My first few years as a teacher were spent teaching students whose first language was not English. Now, most of my students speak English, but I do spend 30 minutes each day teaching English to a small group of 7 kids.
Thank you for sharing the article. I got a 60 when I tallied up everything; lots to think about there. L. and Nicole basically said everything I would have, and far more eloquently. So much of the "privilege" conversation has veered into accusatory language in certain spheres, and I find the most useful way to incorporate it into my life is to reflect on each area (that list encompassed so many things) and what role privilege has played into it. Sometimes that's a lot! (I am white, cisgendered, straight, had a very good education, a strong family, etc.) Sometimes it's distinctly not (female, financial challenges, some rather profoundly awful life circumstances that I'd rather not enumerate but absolutely showed up on that list and impact the way I move through the world). But those things exist side by side and none of them "absolve" or "condemn" me. They inform the way I move through the world, as does everyone else's. And everyone has their version of it.
12/4/2019 04:29:12 pm
Well said, Amanda. You're right, the conversation is so often accusatory. At least, that's how I've felt, and I think that came across in this blog post. I often feel that the media, social media in particular, is pushing for those of European descent to feel guilty for their place in life. I even read somewhere one time that simply by watching TV shows that feature predominately white casts is akin to supporting the "repression" of people of color. Sometimes, it just goes too far.
12/6/2019 10:15:57 am
Well - just to gently push back on that a little bit, I think there's an instinct on the part of someone who is being asked to recognize their privilege to feel a bit defensive. That doesn't necessarily mean the other person is accusing us. I sometimes play a mental game in which I look very closely at my feelings in response to something someone has said like that. For example - "You own a horse, you have so much privilege!" I feel like I am constantly working insanely hard to make that happen in my life, and like I have made a ton of sacrifices and so on - so it doesn't feel like privilege! But when I step back from that and think about why I feel that way and why someone else would look at me and see privilege, I work to recognize the whole spectrum of possibility in which someone might not be able to make that happen and yeah: I am really far on the privileged end of that scale! I think I am very poorly trying to express that sometimes what feels accusatory isn't actually, but our brains are funny and interpret it that way anyway.
12/6/2019 11:54:55 am
Again, very well stated. I will freely admit that I easily feel criticized, and for all the reasons you mention. NOTHING I earn has been easy, so it's easy to feel defensive.
12/5/2019 11:48:57 am
Being poor doesn’t mean you aren’t privileged. I grew up in a poor household. My sister was pulled over driving 110 mph and was given a ticket and allowed to drive off. If she hadn’t been a white female she probably would have been arrested and taken to jail. That is privilege.
12/6/2019 11:56:50 am
That's no doubt true, but I believe privilege is on a sliding scale. Some have a lot more than others. Give me 10,000,000 and then ask me how my level of privilege has changed. LOL :0)
12/8/2019 07:07:39 am
Kudos to you Karen for putting yourself out there with this post. Questioning and exploring the issue of privilege is an important exercise these days, especially with an election year coming.
12/13/2019 01:43:19 pm
Really good points. Living in California skews one's perspective, I think. There is soooo much emphasis on equality and attempting to appear to give preferential treatment that it's a bit like looking at a fun house mirror. Although, I wouldn't know that for sure as I am a married white woman with a degree and a stable career. So who can say for sure?
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: