Homeless man in subway with sign says SEEKING HUMAN KINDNESS

At the very root of privilege is an advantage or favor that many times in America has come in the form of race, class, and gender. Institutional and generational injustices are appearing on our smartphone screens more than ever. 

I dare to ask and say to you:

How seriously and clinically have we audited privilege in our lives? And as important, what do we do about it?

Until we thoroughly have the courage to make public our own privilege we might altogether always fall short of genuinely addressing it as a society. 

Despite the social and economic challenges of being an undocumented immigrant to this country almost thirty years ago, from the second-poorest nation in this hemisphere, I have come to realize that I had the tremendous privilege of being a light-skin Latino, with an Anglo-Saxon name, and a family with enough resources to flee living in the midst of a communist revolution. And our society could be more modest in understanding that we are born biological accidents fortunate enough to be living better than 80% of this world's citizens who make do on $10 or less a day. 

The point of this exercise is to question our own participation, as individuals and as a collective, in the justice we seek for all people.

Western consumerism and business have been built on excess, exponential growth, not on prudence or our sense of enough. This is a starting point worth reflecting on as a society if we are to be genuine about being global citizens concerned about systemic challenges. That is, what is our sense of enough as westerners in relationship to money, consumerism, and business? 

Philanthropy, an inherently privileged institutional machine, seems still, by and large, a paternalistic model born from the alleged good nature of capitalism that continues to do good TO communities as oppose to doing good WITH communities.

Even business networks that champion progressive approaches and lenses on people and planet still gather in expensive hotels and resorts. A model built on the very extractive economics that we progressive business people claim to be against.

It seems that so much of our privilege is also rooted in the choices we make as individuals and as a collective.

Our government, regardless of party, poorly addresses the inconvenient reality and arithmetic that if we are to be truthful and serious about addressing social and economic injustice at home and abroad, then can our elected leaders keep voting on budgets that allocate almost $700 billion to military spending while we observe crumbling infrastructure, education challenges, economic inequality, and mediocre healthcare?

As it turns out, there is also the privilege of not giving matters enough of our attention as a society.

So what matters to us really? Will my generation adapt to the diminishing returns of a middle class lifestyle we might never live? I happen to be in business not to maximize my liquidity of assets but to maximize my personal freedom of time and energy. In that has come a wealth of joy. I am a relatively illiquid person, and maybe to a fault, as I’ve always tried to put my team first. No doubt my business life has afforded me privilege and networks that I could have only dreamed of growing up. Our most dangerous privilege is not reflecting on it enough and having the luxury of action-less voices and fingertips all over social media feeds.

What action, example, service, or dollar have we moved on behalf of We The People? For the polls, struggle to reflect our commitment to systemic change in the form of mediocre voter turnout at best.

So how are we to cure this social disease?

Well, we can start by accepting that we all have some form of it.

In the meantime, I encourage us to return to good deeds in the communities where we live. If it turns out that the middle class is in complete decline in these United States, then live modestly with less but with the daily discipline of a joyous life worth living. 

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About The Author

Henry Cross's picture

Henry Cross grew up in sunny Miami, Florida. Upon graduating high school, he moved to the politicized Washington, D.C. and double majored in History and Politics at the Catholic University. He served as a social studies teacher in Prince George’s County Public School in 2008-2009. In the fall of 2009, he moved to New York City to continue and grow his work in education and service.

He joined Hosh Yoga in 2011 as a teacher and Program Director. And since 2013, he founded and expanded programming for the organization with Hosh Kids and Hosh Seniors. Henry's entrepreneurial spirit helped developed the organizational, program, and financial capacity of the nonprofit to deliver self-sustaining and self-supporting health and wellness services to over 3,000 children, adults, and seniors every month in a cost-effective and fairly-priced way. And from 2014 to 2016, he participated in a philanthropic role by expanding the programming, policy, and public advocacy efforts of the Sonima Foundation as Community Relations Director.

His work has been featured by the Huffington PostElephant JournalBlog Talk RadioThe NYC Social Innovation FestivalSocial Venture Institute, and multiple Brooklyn and Queens newspapers. He is an appointed New York City official of Community Board 5 in Queens, serves on a Department of Youth and Community Development Neighborhood Advisory Board, and on the board of directors of the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association. And in 2015, Henry was selected as an etsy.org business fellow and awarded Top 40 Under 40 Nonprofit Rising Star. He finds joy in his community work service everyday and loves ballroom dancing!

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