Privilege can be obvious but it can also be invisible, especially to those who have it.
Privilege can be obvious but it can also be invisible, especially to those who have it.

LIFE AS I KNOW IT: The privilege of being mainstream

Life as I know it, with Lesley Apps

WHEN visiting elsewhere the task first employed is usually locating where all the op shops are. This not only lands you a few bargains and helps keep the recycling chain going, but also gives you a snippet into the town's psyche.

Recent exploration of the second hand kind was in an inland regional centre much like the Clarence Valley with the usual array of characters volunteering and shopping in the various main and back street locations.

There is no real 'type' that op shops these days, from the well heeled frugal brigade to those desperately in search for some warm clothes to get through another winter. It's a microcosm of society in one fluoro lit, distinctively scented box, whether its the colourful occupants rifling through the racks or the volunteers congregating out the back comparing ailments over a cup of tea.

What regular op shopping also provides is a reminder of what being privileged feels like, because let's face it, anyone who has it, rarely thinks they do because it is so ingrained.

While items are mostly on the cheaper side to me, a middle-of-the-road wage earner according to Australian stats, buying a suit for a funeral can quite literally be everything some customers have that week. Shopping there also reveals that not everyone is well enough to function within society's sometimes hard and fast rules. Some arrive with that challenge through circumstance; others were just born that way.

Most telling of all is that no matter where I go in this country, I'll generally be greeted with some kind of polite acknowledgement. A greeting, a smile, some kind of non-judgemental interaction that occurs when two people usually enter a public zone that loans itself to human interaction.

On the flipside, after receiving these general niceties, it's always sobering to watch and see what other customers experience as their dose of normal human interaction. Some receive identical treatment while others get the complete opposite despite undertaking the same transaction.

This is something I have to make a point of acknowledging because in the course of my day to day activities, the latter issue never arises. I have an inbuilt expectation of being treated 'normally' or even going unnoticed because NOT being noticed means you are acceptably mainstream. I expect to glide into a place and not be rubbernecked by a room full of people, unless I'm a bride, nor looked upon suspiciously. I also expect to engage in some sort of small talk because you know, we're alike, you and me.

It's a privilege many people will never know. Ever, in their entire lives. If you can imagine that then you are halfway in understanding that you indeed enjoy a privileged existence and, in turn, will automatically be ahead of the pack - socially, employment-wise, friendships, business, the list goes on (and on).

Acknowledging privilege goes some way in understanding exactly what 'equality' is and why we all need to be involved in truly achieving it. Whether it's race, creed, sexual orientation, or gender-based equality, seeing where you fit in the scheme of things is a starting point.

If you aren't sure how much privilege you enjoy in your daily life, do this simple test. Rock up to the pub or your nearest retail space any time of the day. You can usually tell within a couple of seconds.

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