Disclaimer: This article is written with a very privileged point of view, as most of our pieces are. Please keep in mind that we would never intend to discredit the experiences of minorities, and this is simply one perspective on a multifaceted issue.
Three weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take a survey in school that was presented by UBC. The survey addressed many aspects of the life of a student, from school life, to home life, to wellness in general. It took about 30-40 minutes to complete, and I personally took my time answering each question thoughtfully. The survey, however, made me think about my privilege, my role in the world, and how valid my problems truly are.
The questions were interestingly black and white. Do you have a mental disorder, or not? Have you attempted suicide, or not? Have you tried marijuana, or not? Fill in the bubbles with the mental disorders you have. Fill in the bubbles with the drugs you have tried. Fill in the bubbles with the privileges you have. Oh, and some children in Vancouver go to sleep hungry at night, because their families cannot afford dinner. Has this happened to you?
Reading these questions and answering them to the best of my abilities was a thought-provoking experience. Firstly, I definitely recognized how privileged I was to be able to afford basic living necessities and to feel safe most of the time. I understand that many children around Vancouver do not have this luxury, and I do my best to use my privilege to help those who aren’t as lucky as I am. After the questions surrounding privileges, however, I found myself saying that I didn’t have issues that I actually do, particularly about mental health, but in other categories as well. Every single time I do struggle with my mental health, I tell myself that I am making myself feel this way, it is my fault, and that I am doing it for attention. I struggled to answer questions about my mental health on the survey, because in that moment, I felt that it was not fair for me to say that I struggle in certain aspects of my life due to my privilege. I allowed for my awareness of my privilege to invalidate my experiences, and felt the need to say that I do not struggle with anything “serious” enough to be accounted for in a survey. Perhaps because I am constantly told to recognize my privilege in a somewhat demeaning manner, it has come to a point where when people say, “others have it worse,” it becomes synonymous with, “your problems are not valid”.
Rich people problems are still problems. White people problems are still problems. Male problems are still problems. Although I am not rich, white, or male, I know for a fact that I am certainly a privileged individual. Yes, people who are not blessed with privilege live difficult lives that have been systematically deprived: this needs to be recognized, understood, and the alleviation of this reality should always be supported. My statements in no way, shape or form diminish the struggles that minorities and others live with. However, this does not invalidate the problems of people who lead privileged lives, and still struggle. Life is hard, and for everyone, it is difficult in different ways. It is not right to underestimate the issues that privileged groups face, in order to validate the problems that minorities and underprivileged people face. Not only does it create yet another divide in our world, but it becomes unhealthy, and leads to the resentment of one another and the development of hatred. Recognize your privilege, but do not invalidate your struggles or anybody else’s; we all have them, and that is okay.
Your problems are valid.
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As this piece was about the validation of other people's struggles, we would like to pledge to always use our privilege to act as allies for minorities who need to be heard. Furthermore, we acknowledge that issues such as mental illness and addiction are widespread, and we will work to diminish the stigma and detrimental behaviour that only exacerbates these issues. We would like to acknowledge and send love to the children that were killed in Afghanistan this week after a bomb was dropped by the U.S., and are praying for those in Syria who may be affected by the threat of military strike.