Our DukeEngage cohort began the week by participating in a privilege sensitivity activity. In this exercise, statements are read aloud that embody an advantage inherent to a person because of unearned benefits a person receives or aspects of his or her physical identity. When working through the privilege walk, I was expecting many of the examples regarding racial identity, sexual orientation, physical ability and socioeconomic status; however, many of the other cards that were read forced me to consider privilege from another lens. It is this lens that most completely captures my experiences engaging with the young adults I’ve had the opportunity to build relationships with through my time with ICCA. A question proposed amongst the group inquiring about access to updated books during the first few years of education made me stop and analyze the educational disparities I’ve been exposed to in Cabo Verde in our local Praia community and on a larger scale and scrutinize how something so simple-seeming has the potential to alter one’s course tremendously.
This week, I began working closely with a 17-year old Cape Verdean student who attends Centro Lem Cachorro, has graduated high school, and holds strong aspirations to attend university in the United States to pursue his career goals. Despite having admirable grades and an impressive work ethic, this student has lacked access to information regarding the American application process and the components necessary to complete it. While assisting this student with additional language practice and preparation to overcome the English language barrier inherent to the standardized tests and writing samples required from college applicants, my team has struggled to secure a path for this training to continue well beyond our time in this community.
Our discussion of privilege highlighted awareness of the problematic consequences associated with abusing or neglecting to recognize one’s advantages, but interactions on-site have challenged me to think about privilege in a different nature. The potential to acknowledge my own benefits and apply them in a way that contributes to building similar opportunities for those without the same access has led to difficult, severely under-discussed conversations with community partners, group members, and ICCA students that have strengthened our relationships and continue to shape my personal thoughts and perspectives. Throughout this program, I’ve struggled with the idea of promoting long-term sustainability within the structure of our short-term project. I still don’t know how the structural disparities and broader issues can be resolved, but I am extremely interested to see how our group goes on to recognize other forms of privilege and attempt to direct them to furthering both our individual and team goals throughout the remainder of our time in Cabo Verde.