Recognizing My Privilege


Recognizing my privilege is of utmost importance. When people find out that I visit schools or work in buildings “West of Ninth Street” in Louisville, they always ask if I am afraid to go to work alone. When I say “people,” know that I mean white, usually middle class, people. People who look like me.

My answer never changes. Why would I be afraid?

In the three years I have worked in nonprofits in Louisville, I have broken up domestic disputes, kicked wandering strangers out of secure buildings, driven car-less parents’ kiddos to school, literally seen a baby be born, and served many a hot meal to people in need. In that amount of time, there have only been maybe two instances when I felt like my 5’2″ body wasn’t up to the task at hand.

The neighborhoods west of Ninth Street aren’t scary or full of horrible people. They are engulfed by poverty, years and years of unfairly allocated resources, and prejudice so deep that even the people who live there often have biases against themselves. Generational curses and teenage parenthood are cyclical issues that families often cannot escape.

I have met many a single mama, working hard to support her babies, constantly playing tug-of-war with her past, trying to escape for a better future. But the jealousy of her family, the demanding partners, the personal fear that she isn’t good enough, smart enough, [fill in the blank…] enough….it’s enough to drag the most determined mama back into poverty if too many things hit at the same time.

That is the reality of what I saw West of Ninth.

When I started my first nonprofit job, I started this list of inequalities that I personally witnessed when crossing that redline at the edge of downtown. Here are some of the ones that I’ve noted over the last few years:

  • The ridiculous number of personal injury lawyer advertisements on the west side of town. Everyone is getting conned into a “get rich quick” scheme so those lawyers can prey on any winnings.
  • A lack of grocery stores. Food stamps don’t go nearly as far at the local mini mart.

  • Cheaper cigarettes…no joke.

  • Lack of road maintenance; instead of a middle line on the one way street I drove to work every day, a crack has just developed so you kind of know how to stay in your lane.

  • Lack of sidewalk maintenance with grass/bushes overgrowing sidewalks.

  • Way more trash on the streets and very few to no public trash cans.

  • Crazy high car insurance that makes it basically financially impossible to legally own and insure a car on the median income of the neighborhood. Liability alone costs at least a few hundred dollars a month for someone on the same block as my business.

  • Streets remain unplowed or unsalted until hours after bad weather, even though the residents of this area have hourly jobs at locations that do not close for inclement weather. Be extra kind to that drive thru worker when you get your McMuffin tomorrow.

  • Cash advance places all over. Again, just a low-life “business owner” looking to prey on those most desperate to make ends meet.

  • Buy here, pay here car lots and rental companies. You can rent everything in your home for the right monthly fee and high interest rate. No matter that one missed paycheck would leave your baby without a bed and you without a car to get to work.

  • Less busses transporting to high traffic areas in other neighborhoods. Everyone must catch a connector downtown first. So someone who lives on Cane Run Road has to catch a bus to downtown before getting to their job on Dixie Highway and have a commute over an hour…even though I had enough time to go from my job on Cane Run to pick up lunch and pop in the grocery store on Dixie on my lunch break.

  • Minimal city grounds maintenance at parks.

  • Higher gas prices. From a business perspective, this is probably because less people in these areas have cars so they have to charge more to make enough money. But in practice, this is price gouging those who are already scraping the bottom of the barrel every month.

These are just things that I could physically observe with my own eyes. I could go on for DAYS if I listed all the inequalities I witnessed in education, opportunities, parenting, and experiences.

Take a look at this list. If you are able to afford gas this month, enjoy a nice park close to home, drive yourself to work, fall back on a high school diploma and maybe even a certification or a college degree, or walk along the sidewalk in your neighborhood without having to step around tree limbs, bushes, and dogs on chains…..take a second to breathe in how fortunate you are.

I know people get triggered by the word “privilege” but that is exactly what it is to live EAST of Ninth Street. Every day I wake up in my Germantown house, walking distance to some of the best parks in the city and no worries about whether I can pay my bills, I am thankful. I recognize that THAT, in and of itself, is my privilege.

We should all take a second to notice and be grateful for our own privileges.


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