Wales shows that privilege can be much more complex than first meets the eyeNational Assembly for Wales

I am privileged. And no, I am not a white, middle-class male (as far as I can tell). For a myriad of reasons, I do not fit the stereotypical, privileged Cambridge student profile.

1. I am a woman. (Mw-ha-ha-ha, in yo face, Patriarchy.)
2. I’m from a working-class town.
3. I went to a state school. Big shout out to the comprehensive!
4. I come from a single-parent family, and my dog has cataracts.
5. I’m not sure I’m actually that brainy – I mean, honestly, what am I doing here? Someone’s made a mistake. (Imposter Syndrome strikes again!)
6. I am not a Tory (despite what many a Corbynite would lead you to believe).

The list goes on. My privilege derives not from my socio-economic background or my gender, or my preferred political party. Thus, it must be that my personal sense of privilege is the result of something else…

I suppose one answer would be education. By this, I don’t mean private or selective education (Theresa, I’m watching you), but rather the fact that up until the age of 16 all of my education was through the medium of Welsh. (Yep, try learning Spanish, maths and science in Welsh. Not fun.) During my time at school, it quickly became apparent that such an education was capable of offering me opportunities beyond the reach of other, English-speaking students at local schools. From having snazzier school uniforms, to possessing the fierce determination born from years of competing at the Eisteddfod, being instilled with middle-class values and having access to the haut monde of Welsh society, one becomes (or in my case, became) a member of a privileged club.

For example, the school’s funding was greater, meaning that we had the potential to gain better grades, and as a result were inherently more reputable than other schools in the area (think Trinity and the Tompkins Table). Such a system does, unfortunately, create an air of elitism, whereby those who attend Welsh schools are deemed socially superior – or at the very least, appear intrinsically disparate – to other students within the community. This sense of insular exclusivity was often, for me, suffocating and far-removed from the real world. (Ha, and yet here I am, already immersed in the ‘Cambridge bubble.’ What do they say the definition of madness is?!)

However, unlike other modes of schooling with some element of elitism, paradoxically, Welsh education is in itself indiscriminate – the only selection criteria being the ability to speak Welsh. Regardless of economic background, race, ethnicity or gender, it is capable of uniting individuals from diverse backgrounds through language. It does not discriminate based on socio-economic or genetic factors beyond our control. As such, it challenges the notion of what it truly means to be privileged in the 21st century, with the children of millionaires and the children of the local council estate brought together under one roof. What unites them, as a result of this ‘privilege’, is opportunity.

As such there has been a huge surge in the number of Welsh medium primary schools, as parents (who may or may not be Welsh speakers themselves) aim to open the hitherto locked gates of opportunity. That got me thinking. Perhaps it is best not to look at privilege simply as a term referring to middle-class aspiration or wealth or sex (yawn, yawn, yawn). It is far, far more than that.

Privilege floats above these prescriptive terms like some spooky Halloween ghost, or a rubber duck in a bath. For example, (bear with me here) another reason as to why I consider myself privileged is my upbringing. Although it was not grand, and we didn’t holiday twice a year in the Alps (Brecon Beacons, anyone?) or have a Waitrose around the corner (Lidl, my friends, is a place to be cherished), I had a truly privileged upbringing.

It was privileged in the sense that I was (and still am) completely surrounded by love and kindness and lived in an environment whereby my passion for all things geek could be nurtured, developed and allowed to flourish. This gave me the opportunity to pursue my childhood dream of studying in Cambridge. Privilege therefore is often supplemented by the people around you – and although, of course, money often allows individuals to unlock certain opportunities – it is not the deciding factor in terms of defining privilege. (Ugh, I feel like I’ve written privilege too many times. Apologies.)

Another element closely linked to this, and related to my personal sense of privilege, is my father. He died when I was 10, and although we had but a short amount of time together, he was my best friend. I suppose sometimes in your life a person can make a dramatic impact upon you, which may change the course of your future. Knowing my dad, his warmth, his kindness, his sense of humour, and his taste in music had such an impact upon me. And so now, writing this on the anniversary of his death, I feel privileged to have known him. Just like Welsh education or my upbringing (or whatever other element you consider to have brought you privilege), knowing my dad gave me opportunity. It granted me the opportunity to become who I am today, and although clichéd, I would not be me without him. (This got deep again, didn’t it? Damn it.)

From one’s drive to pursue opportunity – which, as Cambridge students, I’m sure we can all relate to – it is possible to trace the origin of our personal privilege. According to Google, ‘privilege’ is defined as ‘an advantage that only one person or group of people have’. Thus it is inherently unique – with my privilege being completely independent to yours.

Bringing all of the aforesaid factors together leads me to one simple conclusion: privilege has not got one, standard definition. Every individual who considers themselves privileged is privileged in different ways – with each factor underpinned by one key element: opportunity. What is most important, however, is what we decide to do with the opportunity that our privilege bestows upon us. Now, that enigma may take a little longer to solve. If you have any ideas, do let me know

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