This week, the film “Girl Rising” aired on Whitworth’s campus. The film documented the lives of girls from different countries as they struggle to obtain an adequate education and be recognized as equal members of society. It features nine girls from countries including Cambodia, India, Nepal, Egypt, Peru, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Haiti and Sierra Leone. I had a strong gut reaction to the movie. At certain parts, I could feel my heart racing with anger. At others, I wanted to cry. There were parts where a smile crept across my face when I could see the girls overcoming significant obstacles. I can still clearly see the images of the girl from Haiti standing in a dump dreaming of going to school, the girl from Nepal trapped in the evil kamlari (indentured servitude) system, the girl from Peru dealing with her father’s death while passionately writing poetry and many others. After seeing those images, I know I can’t just sit back and wait for change. I have to take action. However, I’m not exactly sure what that action entails yet. I just know that I cannot stand the thought of not doing anything.
I also walked away from the movie with a feeling of guilt. What makes me deserving of an education, particularly at a high-caliber private school such as Whitworth? I complain about going to class. I complain about the piles of homework I have to do. I complain about not getting enough sleep. But in this film I saw girls who would give anything to be in my place right now, or at least have the opportunity to get a basic education.
While I am still struggling with the guilt, I have realized that is not the message that I want to take from the movie. Yes, I am privileged. I was raised in a loving family, I have never struggled to meet my basic needs, I attended a private elementary school and some of the best public schools in the state, and now I am at a wonderful university. I do not need to feel bad about being blessed in these ways. My education is not diminishing anyone else’s education. Rather, if used properly, my education can become a catalyst to improve others’ opportunity for education.
While I believe this is an incredibly valuable cause, I’m not trying to argue that everyone must now stand behind it. Instead, I believe that we need to examine how we use our privilege. Even though we all come from drastically different walks of life, we all attend Whitworth now, which gives us an incredible opportunity to become successful. Therefore, we are all privileged. Rather than telling ourselves that we don’t deserve this advantage, we can use this blessing to in turn make dramatic social change in our world.
Our privilege becomes dangerous when it allows us to become complacent. We have all been blessed with numerous and unique gifts that allow us to go out into the world and do something. Regardless of whether that is fighting for education quality, feeding the hungry, pushing for environmental protection or another important cause, our privilege gives us the ability, as well as the responsibility, to take action.
Contact Lindsey Hubbart at firstname.lastname@example.org