Oy with the poodles already!

Friends, if you haven’t heard, my favorite television series Gilmore Girls is going to have four new 90 minute episodes come out on Netflix.

In honor of this news, I’m dedicating this editorial to one of my most appreciative lessons Gilmore Girls has taught me.

In the last season, Rory wrote an article about the “trust-fund” party-goers she encountered one night. She ripped them apart, making them appear naive to the fact that some people have real problems.

After her boyfriend read the article, what he said to Rory was revealing. I never looked at my life the same way again.

“Wake up, Rory. Whether you like it or not, you’re one of us. You went to prep school. You go to Yale. Your grandparents are building a whole astronomy building in your name.”

He was proving what many of us neglected to see. Rory Gilmore was privileged.

Rory argued with him, trying to prove that the fact that she’s not paying rent and that her grandparents paid her way through school is not the same thing as being part of a $5 million trust-fund. And that’s when I saw it. I saw it in myself and I saw it in Rory. I saw it in the people I interacted with at school and the people I worked with.

We are all so afraid of our privilege.

I can see why. Conversations on privilege typically make the most privileged person in the room feel guilty. It can also make them feel like their struggles were never real. This is a problem. When we treat privileged people as the enemy, we don’t solve the issue.

Peggy McIntosh, one of the first people to dissect the topic of privilege, sees the trouble in our conversations. We have assumed people’s stories based on their level of privilege and have not allowed them to testify to their own experiences.

“Unless you let the students testify to what they know, which schools usually don’t let them do, they will continue to do just what the dominant society wants them to do, which is to tear each other apart,” McIntosh said. “The students who are sitting there fighting with one another aren’t allowed to have their lives become the source for their own growth and development.”

The conversation of privilege has to be a balance of societal constructs and personal agency. People have told me that I’m not privileged because I’m half black, a woman, and middle class. People have told me that I am privileged because I’m half black, a woman, and middle class. Privilege is complicated.

We should not ignore the societal constructs that make it harder for me, a woman, to get certain things out of life. We should not ignore the racism that has made me work harder to be taken seriously.

But we should also not ignore the fact that I have two amazing parents who are supportive of my journey in life. We should not ignore that I am healthy enough to have a job and be a student. We should not ignore that I am able to watch Gilmore Girls on a computer and that I never have to worry about going to bed hungry.

There are times when I see others as more privileged, but most of the time, I have the moment of “you’re one of us.” If we didn’t hide from our privilege like Rory did, we may be able to be more present in a healthier conversation that could alter the societal constructs that put people at a disadvantage. And if we stopped attacking people for the privilege they cannot control, we could finally start to work with them to find solutions. Hiding and treating people as less than human are not ideal ways to handle a conversation that could change our society for the better.

Learn their story. Hear their experiences. Understand how they as individuals have been affected by the societal constructs. Don’t try to box them in before hearing their voice. And don’t be afraid of your story, privileged or not, because it’s powerful. These conversations are needed, but we must approach them in the right way.

So the next time someone demeans you for being privileged before asking about your story, or hides from their own because we’ve made privileged such a dirty word, just look at them and, in pure Gilmore Girls fashion, say “oy with the poodles already.”