Columnist discusses privilege in UA

By Josie Stewart, ’21

This is the second time that I have written this column.

By Josie Stewart, ’21

The first one, I promptly deleted after reading it to my parents. I spoke about how I’ve always tried to conceptualize how much I have living in Upper Arlington. Even the people who have the least in UA have more than others outside our area.

I deleted my writing, though, because I spoke about this from the side of someone whose family has never had any financial problems, only to find my parents never told me the story of how my dad lost his job when I was a toddler and filed for bankruptcy, forcing us to move into a different house in UA. My parents emphasized how they did everything possible to keep my sisters and I in this school system.

Although my family is now financially fine and living comfortably in South UA, it took some convincing to allow my parents to write about this in Arlingtonian. But, I think that it needs to be written.

Most people in UA don’t realize how well off they are. There are some people who are not stably in UA, and others fail to realize that fact.

Even I have struggled to realize it. Especially now that I know I was one of those people.

I am happy to live in UA. Even though it may be “the bubble” with not much to do, the education here will take me far and I know I’m in a safe environment. I am happy that my parents did everything to keep me here, and I wish that I would recognize how much I have.

I consider my house to be nice, but I never think I have as much as my friend who lives in a massive house with extra bedrooms, a closet that I see in my dreams and a backyard bigger than my own house.

My parents friends are all types of doctors and lawyers who make a fair salary, while my parents only work at OSU. Even so, it shouldn’t matter.

The constant comparison to the people with the most only leads the rest of us to disappointment and erroneous thinking.

The argument that you always have something more than someone else is not fair, but in the case of privilege, it can be strikingly real.

You don’t know everyone’s story—neither do I. I didn’t even know my own until recent.

My mom drives a Mercedes, but my sister drives a 2001 Volkswagen Jetta. I’ve had people comment on how much money my family must have and am given surprised or confused looks when my sister drops me off in a car that’s louder than the radio.

It’s not often that someone will offer a story about how they’re struggling to live in UA to people who they know wouldn’t understand. Instead, it stays hidden and kept a secret in every way possible. It’s a time when judgement is almost at an all-time high, and UA is unforgiving to problems like this.

While also rewriting this column, I was told to think about outside of UA.

UA is ranked 497 in the nation and 19 in Ohio for education according to UA News. Is it really fair that families struggle to stay here because it’s not a given that the education will be adequate somewhere else? Of all the many flaws this country has, education is near the top.

You are lucky to be a student at UA. Privileged, in fact. While the argument that “whatever you have, someone always has less” is never really fair, in education, it’s sadly true.

Photo courtesy Sophia Shen.

You really never do know the story. From meeting students in districts less fortunate than ours who are astounded by our facilities to even close peers hiding their financial aid when buying lunches at the school. We all live in UA, but that’s not the end of the anecdote for every family.