“If you believe that some opinions are in fact better than others, then you, too, are an elitist of sorts.” ― Michael Harris
There are certain things you just don’t do when surviving the social landscape. Don’t cut in line in front of a cheerleader in the lunch line. Don’t ask the football players just how much their families donated to the school. Never question how the ‘fundraisers’ went for the orchestra or band.
Elitism in the suburbs was just an accepted fact and one we never questioned. You knew your place, your rank, your number. You knew not to try and defy that rank unless your plan was to “upgrade” in college. It was something that as a young lady in suburbia accepted. It was common knowledge and the funny thing about it was that no one seems to want to change the system. The community, clearly to an extent, enjoyed gentrification. Or at least didn’t find it abhorrent enough to change it. University wasn’t the grand equalizer, either. To many the college selection process is a beauty pageant or popularity contest. Academia is secondary to pedigree for some. And college is for all too many Southern girls the place where you should find your future husband. The fabled MRS. Degree of Southern debutante lore.
The truth of the matter is I never really thought about how shaping and damning elitism can be. I knew it was in my heart, and the socially and globally aware freedom fighter within me stood against it but I didn’t figure out to exactly what equalist tune I was singing to. Yes, it’s bad. But what can I actually do about it? I didn’t even in all truth deal much with the negative aspects of the elite society I was a byproduct of. I come from a family of good standings. We have our own personal pedigree. I’m a former Senior Girl Scout. Went through Cotillion. Graduated from high school in the top half of my class with honors. Graduated from a top tier Catholic university with honors and on the Dean’s List. Studied abroad. Can speak multiple languages. I’ll stop here with my senseless bragging. Yes, all of those things are fine and lovely. But the real reason I started thinking about elitism is the stunning realization far too many young adults have around their 20s.
There is someone out there that makes more than you, is smarter than you and could not care less about your existence. I started noticing this especially while working in an outdoor mall just after finishing my degree. Like many 20somethings, I found myself out of college and out of a stable job so I was more than willing to work retail while my BA sat on a shelf. While working outside at a kiosk, I was talked down to more than I really like admitting, had several people treat me rather rudely. And had way more than just one person treat me poorly because they assumed they were of higher socioeconomic standing than I was.
It wasn’t until I was cut in line recently that I starting to think about this touchy subject one more and then came to realize exactly how much judgement we do in fact pass on people in the name of elitism or the simple assumption that you are better than them or vice versa. A woman cut in front of me in line while waiting for a discount bus back to San Antonio from Austin. She was quick to reply “Oh, I reserved.” to which I promptly retorted “So did I.” to which we shared a moment of intensely awkward laughter and continued to jostle for first position on the bus.
The irony of the encounter was the bus did in fact change last minute. There were no reservations on this bus. So in the end, the woman and I were just 2 people on a bus trying to get to another city. We weren’t better than any of the other people on the same bus or the people still on the bus from the last stop. So before you think about the person in line ahead of you. Or the friend on Facebook in the questionable outfit, in the end we’re all just faces trying to get to a common greater goal. That goal, I like to think, is happiness. Or Netflix. That’s usually my common greater goal.