While working with the youth in Praia, it is inevitable that one should begin comparing their lived experiences with the people they are working with. Many privileges are based in an identity, and with specific communities that I’ve already worked in, I continue to notice the privileges my various identities afford me.
Of the many privileges that my various identities allow me to live in, I have noticed that some of the easiest to overlook are my mobility and nationality. Those two identities provide me with abundant opportunities that pass in the background of my lived experience, but are made more evident when they are compared with individuals that lack these privileges. Within my interactions with Cabo Verdeans as well as international students in the DukeEngage program, I’ve learned to especially vigilant of the power of the U.S. passport. It is amazing how many opportunities are afforded to me and denied to others because of a seemingly simple piece of paper given to me merely for the fact that I was born to it. Many people look at it as a right of citizenship to receive a U.S. passport, but with respect to the citizens of restrictive countries, it should appear more often as a privilege. With my passport, I can visit an extraordinary number of places for short periods of time without a visa. I bypass “random” security searches and scrutiny because my passport has a bald eagle and the American flag on it, a privilege hardly afforded to my racially ambiguous international friends.
One of the young adults that we work with has recently graduated high school and decided to consider universities in the United States as an option to further his professional aspirations. Unfortunately, his Cape Verdean nationality makes the process of pursuing those options much more difficult, to the point where these options are out of reach for many international students. His nationality and Cape Verdean passport may afford him other privileges, such as easier access to higher education in Portugal, but they limit his current ambitions. Given that the U.S. has some wonderful opportunities for higher education, my U.S. passport gives my greater access to more opportunity. It’s a privilege that is not necessarily transferable, but perhaps might function as an avenue of advocacy or promotion of understanding how nationality acts as privilege via access. As I have continued to work with the youth of Cape Verde, I’ve become increasingly invested in trying to provide as many avenues to opportunities as possible to them, whether that be researching funding or alternate program opportunities. For me, it is important to realize that some identities and experience make access to great opportunities hard, but not impossible.