Lately, I am reminded of this thing called unearned privilege. I first noticed it in late 2017, and have started to recognise it again this year.
Unearned Privilege: Being Born
I am very very very lucky to be born into a very privilege environment.
Being Chinese in a Chinese-majority society, born a Singaporean, attending the finest institutions in Singapore, never worrying about financial burdens thanks to scholarships and growing up in a society that views gender equally: It’s equivalent to being a white college-educated male in the West.
Being born this way has already put me way ahead of many other peers in my life.
I never knew that. I never acknowledged that. Now I finally did.
Most unearned privilege: People
At the same time, though my life so far, I am privileged to meet folks from all walks of life — old people still working at 70+ years old to support themselves, cancer patients, extremely poor people to highly educated professors, multimillionaire business owners and other inspiring professionals.
The people I meet are open-minded and knowledgeable in their fields. It allowed the ability to speak candidly, started though-provoking conversations and created new insights.
This is the privilege that I am most grateful for, every single day. My parents, my family, my crazy friends-family, my entire support system. I am simply humbled to have the raw privilege to have these people in my life.
Nothing in life is free. Where I am today, is though years of struggles from my forefathers. My forefathers had no belongings, had to worry about what to eat for the next meal and struggle to even get the slightest bit of education. And here I am, having the luxury of time and opportunities.
I am who I am today because of my effort (0.1%) and all the combined efforts of my forefathers and parents (99.9%). They worked hard so that I have a roof above my head, meals to eat for the rest of my life and never having to worry about life. I can focus on living.
If this is not standing on the shoulders of giants, I do not know what is.
Help community. Give back. Make a difference. Do something.
This is definitely an unearned privilege. Because I am born into a specific race in a certain society, it has given me a huge head start in life. The ability to receive many scholarships and to be part of their elite community has given me immense insights to the inequalities of life — the opportunities, the network and community of the best.
Writing an economics research paper with IPS and understanding from the team in NYC about parenting styles and social mobility really put things into perspective. Scholarship community gave me a huge head start. Being the majority race is a huge bonus. Growing up and receiving education in one of the finest cities is just a cherry on top.
Yet, all these knowledge will only go to waste if one does not harness it. For the longest time, I was genuinely guilty for being born with these unearned privilege. It took years to finally embrace it, and realise the best thing I can do is to use my privilege to help others.
One of my goals in life is to set up a scholarship fund. To fund students who are interested to pursue any field in economics. I am also working to be a role model, so little kids in the future can be inspired and use my methodology. I hope to inspire just one person, to realise that whatever they want to be is possible and within their control.
Still working on it. 1% improvement every day.