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privilege

Written on: Wednesday August 20th, 2008

A journal entry from: ARGENTINA!!

"Unpacking the invisible knapsack". As I have studied in one of my anthropology courses- the invisible knapsack can be explained as a unconscious "set" of various privileges that usually white people hold, without ever noticing when they are at work; Privilege that people usually take for granted and that often comes as a "package", as read in the article attached, with one's skin colour, status or gender. Due to a long history of racism and white supremacy, unfortunately still today, being white easily allows one person to take advantage of various opportunities . In Buenos Aires- On thing that I have noticed is that mainly the "white" looking people (which probably had European heritage) were the wealthiest-while those that had a darker skin tone, were member of the lower class.

When talking to the girls that I lived with in Argentina, they always made an effort to acknowledge the fact, and often assumed , that since I was from Canada, I was wealthy and most importantly, was interested in shopping since the peso was worth a third of a dollar. This way of thinking, was clearly also present in the outside world, where everyone, after understanding that I was a tourist, would easily assume that I could and wanted to buy the most expensive items because I was "wealthy", and because I would find everything extremely cheap. Not only on an economic level, was I considered privileged, but also on a level of granted opportunities by the place where I was from. People would often comment that I was from a completely different world. A world that was economically and politically stable; a place that gave young students the opportunity to travel and discover new frontiers, as well as a place where one could plan one's future with tranquility, and most likely be able to accomplish and reach one's goals.

This privilege that was usually assigned to those coming from western countries, was visible especially in shopping malls. These shopping malls where only visited by very wealthy Argentineans or mainly tourists. Obviously a long history of colonialism and inequality is still visible and still carries its negative consequences. First of all, these malls were beautifully made, enormous and where situated in the richest areas. These malls would have people opening the entry doors, bathrooms decorated with gold, they were overly clean and filled with every kind of store that a tourist would likely buy from. In other words, shopping malls represented a totally different world within Argentina: a world only made for tourists and those that could afford it. A world made for the privileged.

One time, I was at a store and instead of "pushing" the door, I was "pulling" it, almost breaking the glass door. The security man, immediately came towards me, yelling at me for mistaking pulling for pushing?(: D) but as soon as he heard me speak with an accent, he said: English? And I said yes?he was soon smiling and said:..ok ok then its fine! Knowing that I would bring in dollars, on a general note, merchants would treat me as a "tourist" which usually carries an "invisible knapsack".

I honestly did not enjoy this difference in treatment and the creation of specific places for tourists: a place where every problem present in Argentina could be hidden; an oasis within a country that was facing various political and economic struggles. For some reason- each country tries to hide reality from the tourists, while creating a "better looking" picture of the country-absent of any sort of troubling matters. Being labelled as a "privileged" person made me feel very uncomfortable, but unfortunately it was inevitable.

 

From meganck on Aug 21st, 2008

I really liked your blog post. Espeically the malls...I too have problems with the upper class Guatemalan malls...i go there because its a good place to wait for a ride and its the best place to get off intercity buses, but it almost makes me sick...eventually i started playing with it, getting off the city bus, walking throught the super upper class mall and getting on another city bus...(to get home) its totally like crossing worlds