It's very likely that you've seen the short video Life of Privilege Explained in a $100 Race. A group of American college students are lined up in an open field and the organiser announces a race, where the winner gets $100.
Before he says 'go,' he lists off some statements. If the statements were true for the competitors they could take two steps forward. If not, they stayed put.
"Take two steps forward if both of your parents are still married."
"...If you grew up with a father figure in the home."
As some students took great strides forward with smiling faces, the camera shows us those who are still on the start line in sober isolation. We can see where this is going. We can see there will be more conditions allowing some to keep advancing and others not. The pain, of course, is not that those at the back will miss out on $100, but in the recollection of a hard life and enduring what no child should.
And here's my problem with the video: it isn't about privilege as much as it is about disadvantage. Those are very different things. Sure, private school and personal tutoring can be considered privileges, but everything else is what should be normal - the lack of which can be defined as disadvantage.
At Sepheo, we work in the midst of extreme poverty. But, we don't consider someone who has shelter, love and enough food privileged. It's just the way it's supposed to be. Our team's efforts with street children and other abused, neglected, abandoned and exploited groups are not to give them privilege, but what they should have had all along.
"...if you never had to help mom or dad with the bills." This is not privilege; it's the way it's supposed to be. A carefree childhood where you don't have the stress of providing.
"...if you never wondered where your next meal was going to come from." Not privilege, but surely what should be normal for every child. Having predictable security and nutrition to grow.
Sadly, the statements in the video are close to home for the demographics we deal with.
When we put a child back in a home, give them an education and make sure they don't have to support their family anymore, do we call that privilege? No. When we do these things, we are not giving privilege, but removing disadvantage. When we encounter those who suffer trauma, homelessness and a world that hates them, we are moved in our deepest parts by a sense of justice that says 'this is not right.'
As a society, we should not be shocked that some people have more, or even have a head start in life. What should break us - to the point of action - is that some have never received what every human being should: parents to nurture, a loving dad in the home, food, education, safety and a childhood free from the need to work for food and clothes.
Ultimately, when we remove disadvantage from children they are back in the race and have a decent chance of fulfilling the purpose they have always had. This hope is foundational to our belief that excellence can come out of poverty.