Unawareness of Privilege - by Anonymous Junior

posted Jun 1, 2017, 7:03 AM by Daniel Laurison

The Dentist, some more: you know I worked hard, I didn't have all the advantages, I had to start working at 14, my dad made me, I had to pay my way through college, so I made it on my own.
me: so, what does your dad do?
The Dentist: he's a dentist. Here.
me: aha. Well, bye.

            The dentist, in this case, seems to be unaware of his privilege.  This seems to be in accordance to the general narrative that people with privilege are less aware of its existence than people without it.  This is exemplified in Annette Lareau’s Unequal Childhoods, as an upper-middle class child states that he got to where he is in life by working very hard.  At this point he is in college, recruited by the basketball team.  He is unaware of all of his parents’ help: how they signed him up to extracurricular activities, including basketball, how they sent him to a high-quality school, and so on.  This is just like the dentist; both over attribute their successes to themselves instead of recognizing the privilege of having been raised in an upper-middle class environment (of course, I can only assume that the dentist was, seeing as how his father is a dentist).

            Generally, intergenerational mobility in the United States is inelastic.  People born in a social class will probably end up in the same one.  This is greatly because of the environment where people are raised in.  The environment, including one’s parents, generally provide one with cultural capital –such as skills or sets of behaviors— that lead to a reproduction of one’s social class.  This is elucidated in Unequal Childhoods through two different processes: concerted cultivation and the accomplishment of natural growth.  These are each differing parenting methods that are generally used by different social classes.  Higher classes tend to rely on concerted cultivation, where they generally teach their children how to navigate institutions and authority figures, whereas lower classes tend to have their kids undergo the natural growth route, where they learn skills such as independence and self-organization.  Here, however, the higher class children obtain an advantage that can greatly benefit them in a way that is generally taken for granted: more institutional support.  This can be seen through increased teacher help, more personalized educational attention and even through a better understanding of how to get ahead in institutions.  These are advantages that higher class children tend to have that are taken for granted.

            Another way through which parents help their children are via social networks.  These generally help with information, such as for universities.  This is seen in Unequal Childhoods as a mother is able to teach her son about college information that she learned through her friends.  Social networks are also important for securing jobs.  This is seen in the book Social Class, edited by Lareau and Conley.  In a chapter, Conley provides George W. Bush as an example for how his social networks helped him become president.  As his father was the president, he was able to understand what it meant to hold that position, something that for many is hard to even imagine.  He was also able to learn about the procedures and ways in which one must prepare to become the president, and how to navigate the relevant gatekeeping institutions.  This is the same in many jobs, as references can help one get interviews in elite private service firms, according to the book Pedigree.  Thus, the dentist’s father probably also had a role, directly or indirectly, in helping him work where he works.