Friday, February 22, 2019

Ignorance of Generational Wealth Is Fact, Not Fiction

JAMES CALABRESI ’20

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

As we make our way back down familiar paths (minus that construction zone), and enter back into the ins and outs of life at Trinity (R.I.P. Goldberg’s & TrinAir), it is worthy of our time to reflect on the great opportunity we have here at Trinity College. Hopefully refreshed by a long summer, and content with the time to be at home with our pets and families (yes, that is the order of importance), we are full emotionally with that idle contentment that only summer can bring; finally, we are ready to be back school-side.

Seeing other students around us old, new, or somewhere in between, allows us to not only meet new people, but to picture for a hot second how other people see our subjects and classes from their own unique view. Our American education system, no matter its flaws, has given us the opportunity to grow like no other time in our lives besides childhood. We can explore ideas, other personalities, our physical limits, and all this under a support system in one location and surrounded by our peers and future friends.

Part of this massive cosmic lucky blip in time is the fact that many of us are connected to this school in one way or another. Friendships, alumni relationships, and proximity all make for amazing bonds that most often strengthen between us over time.

As a white man born to a well-to-do family, I come to school with enormous privilege behind me. The choices I have had to make, the barriers I have had to surpass, in a lot of ways, are considerably reduced for a person like me. One of my big takeaways from RA training the last few weeks was a moment when the room was split along a line by status of wealth. I was quite clearly one of the most well off, standing several feet away from the line, almost at the wall, while most of my peers hovered close to or on the other side of the line. Generational wealth may not be the first thing that pops to mind when you enter into a conversation with someone- but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

One recent study found that the average cost of college books has risen four times faster than the rate of inflation over the last 10 years. The main culprit is access codes, which can only be redeemed once and which prevent the primary buyer from reselling the material at a decent price to the next student.

So, I  think of the people without all the might of generational wealth behind them- people who we see everyday who had to save up for their textbooks, shop around for classes for what seems like an inexpensive bookload, even choose different classes over the ones they want. It is for these people, your friends here, high-school groups, and more that I ask of you to consider. These are the people who are both on a scholarship and fly in from around the world, working campus jobs to save up money, trying their hardest to save mather swipes to get by.

I am asking that everyone make an effort to change the way that we look at these people. What we don’t need is coddling. When we have figured our own way past the barriers and stigmas in our own heads we can see our peers for what they’re worth. Every day, collassal success stories go walking plainly besides us on the Long Walk for all to see, yet the average Trinity student can’t imagine anything other than their own circumstances.

Wealth is a complicated matter. It transcends diversity, it intersects with it. But one thing I can say for sure is that there is nothing more disgusting than seeing the wealthy be so oblivious to their own ignorance and doomed to follow in their parents path… until we find the courage to speak up about it, slamming the door of truth into the face of power.

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