Wednesday, June 03, 2015

The rich aren't like you and me

All this talk about white privilege sometimes confuses me. I'm white, of course, but I don't always recognize the advantages I receive simply on the basis of skin color.

The matter becomes easier to understand, however, when I reflect on the privileges other groups receive. Take the rich, for example.

Joe Moneybags and I live on the same block, and go to the same shul.* To quote the great Tom Tools, Joe was born on third base (rich grandparents and parents) and thinks he hit a triple. As a rule, I'm not jealous and I don't begrudge his wealth, but I do think its worthwhile to examine some of his privileges.
  • A $50 contribution represents X of my disposable income, while X of Joe's disposable income is probably something like $10,000. When I toss $50 into the hat for an appeal or to help sponsor an event, I'm regarded as stingy. When Joe tosses in his $10,000 he's lauded as a hero and a great philanthropist -- even though we've made the exact same sacrifice.
  • Joe's wealth allows him to attend more community events. He's at every dinner, wine tasting, brunch and parlor meeting. As as result, people think of Joe as a team player and he has access to business and social opportunities that aren't available to those who don't have as much money as he does.
  • When other members of the shul are "honored"** by schools, Joe is always good for a full-page ad. This creates good will, and feelings of obligation. I know this is true because that's how I felt when I saw the ad Joe bought in my honor when I was "honored." 
  • Joe's father-in-law always gets an aliya when he visits. In part, this is because he makes sizable contributions to the synagogue, contributions that likely represent a smaller percentage of his disposable income than the contributions made by many of the rest of us. 
  • When Joe's kids come of age, he throws huge parties and invites hundreds of people. Lots of people = lots of presents; meanwhile, those of us who can only afford smaller parties aren't able to give our kids access to the same sort of boost.
Now, let me be clear I have no personal issue with Joe. He's a great guy, who shares his money instead of sitting with it in his counting room. My only purpose here is to discuss and identify  privilege. I'm not passing any judgement.

Let me say one nice thing about Jewish richies. When a gentile gets rich, he usually leaves his  middle-class neighbors and joins his fellow richies in some secluded, gated community. Our richies stay in the neighborhood, and while they will usually poke out our eyes with some monstrous home renovation, they also continue to support our synagogues and to support and host events that make life a little more pleasurable.

** Honor, of course, is a complete misnomer. Unless you're mentally ill you don't find anything gratifying or pleasant about being "honored" by  school.

Search for more information about ###

No comments: