Dearest Buzzfeed Readers Discussing Privilege

By Phoenix Perry

Phoenix Perry teaching for The Code Liberation Foundation at NYU Game Center

Dearest Buzzfeed readers discussing privilege,

First off, if you’ve had access to take this quiz everyone’s discussing on privilege, let me get something out of the way immediately. You have a fantastic level of privilege compared to others around the globe. At this point, we are splitting hairs on the scale of karmic luck. Not that all suffering isn’t important or real, but please take a second to notice that you’ve had time to do this quiz, money to have net access and friends that are smart enough to think about these issues. Pause now and reflect on that.

So where am I? I scored a whole thirty one points.

This places me firmly in the not privileged camp. However, I would like to reveal the stupefying levels of privilege I live with everyday. Biographically, here are the facts. I grew up in a poor family in the south. From twelve onward, I was raised by only my uneducated mother who worked as a maid to care for her two children. Dealing with my father’s sudden death, she was suffering from mental illness and doing the very best she could with a very poor tool set. We had government assistance. Around 15, I began to realize I was attracted to women as well as men. After about 16, I started actively dating both genders and also stopped even pretending to be a Christian woman. For three years of my life, from 19–22, I was engaged to a trans woman, and for the record I’d like to state that living in the deep south with her was one of the most terrifying experiences of my adult life. Many times I questioned if we were going to just die as victims of a hate crime. Men used to say to my face I needed to be raped so I would understand I should be straight. Their logic was proof to me how sorely I needed out of that situation.

Then suddenly, everything changed. I was hired in Silicon Valley as a developer. A few factors made what happened to me possible. The first factor is intelligence. I’m not just smart, I’m a genius in the way western culture values mental ability. This pulled me out from others with my background. Teachers treated me better. I got a superior education, into a better college, an even better graduate school and now I am about to join one of the best universities on earth as faculty. As a result, I am highly technically skilled and my whole adult life has been spent somewhere within the spectrum of the digital economy. When I started that job in the valley, I suddenly started making more money than every single member of my family combined.

As it turned out, my luck didn’t hold. At 24, I managed to become partially disabled. It took around eight years but I’ve recovered. I could go into the details but another trait I have far more than most people is resilience. All of the horrible things I had to overcome in my youth led to the development of this far more important skill. Soon I was back on track and rising again. Luck made things like drinks with the head of a department at NYU turn into a MS degree. Luck again began changing my life.

Discussing how programming is a political act at Indie Develop in Utrecht, NL 2015

Since leaving the south, I feel like everyday has been a gift. Currently, I live in a three bedroom modern home which is resoundingly beautiful in The Netherlands with the love of my life and our cat. As a bisexual woman, I live with CIS privilege unless I out myself. I have the time, energy and support to work with organisations to help other women learn to program. I do this because of the economic advantages programming gives a person. If luck is a lady, she’s with me now.

It’s time we discuss the harder stuff to talk about.

We need to talk about what we value in culture.

We need to talk about luck.

We need to discuss genetics.

Most importantly, we need need to discuss access to social mobility.

Looking at access will show a far deeper moral abyss than the one that privilege shows. In a world where access is narrowing and the gap between the rich and the poor is growing, please note how social mobility is shifting.

If you’re reading this you currently have access to the tools that empower social change.

Right now, you have access to education, communication and most importantly each other.

Do something with it.

phoenix perryphoenix perry    @phoenixperry

Professor, CS PhD researcher, game company owner, artist, programmer, game designer, activist + lunatic extraordinaire.

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