In fact, I didn’t.
There’s a running theme among politicians of a certain stripe who insist that successful business owners, for one group of people, are successful strictly by dint of their hard work.
No one’s denying running a business takes a lot of work, and running a successful one takes even more than that — like luck, and government tax breaks. We keep forgetting that no one does it alone. Unless you’re a party of one (Hi, Joe Lieberman!), you got to where you are — for good or for ill — because you had help.
How much help? Let me start:
In my pursuit of my journalism career, I put in long hours and I worked hard. I also had some lucky breaks, either from bosses who allowed me my quirks, or from being in the right place at the right time. Neither took great reportorial skills. I was handed things.
I paid my way through college by working three jobs at once, and by applying for and getting scholarships — and by taking out loans. I qualified for at least one of those scholarships because of my ethnicity (a little Irish). I did nothing spectacular or noteworthy to be a little Irish. It just happened. Thanks, Mom! Thanks, Dad! I don’t remember what percentage of the total college bill my Kiss-me-I’m-Irish scholarship paid, but I know I needed every penny.
I am able to afford a house because of a complex system set up in my favor as a wage-earning Caucasian. I am accorded a certain spot at any table I choose to grace for precisely those same reasons. I work hard for my wages. I do absolutely nothing to be a Caucasian. It’s like being handed a gift basket every day (and I’m not even entirely Caucasian, though I look the part). In fact, I could work my life in such a way that the only time I am forced to think about race is when I walk into a roomful of people who aren’t Caucasian, and I can make it so that that never happens. For my Latina/African American/Middle Eastern friends, that is not an option. (And I do not exercise that option because being only with people who look, smell, and sound like yourself is boring.)
I believe — and this won’t make my popular with everyone — that I came along at a time when certain industries were looking to increase the number of women they had on staff. Because of the hard work of feminists before me, I, as a woman, may have been hired strictly as a token. I guarantee once the door was open, I blew through it and I earned my position, but I know of at least two occasions when I was hired strictly because of my gender. (No worries, though. I also can recite instances where I was treated as less-than because of my gender; I’m not saying it evens out. I’m saying that it hasn’t been all bad, being a girl.)
Let’s see…there are probably umpteen more occasions in which I was given a really good seat simply because I showed up. You?
(And thanks, Susan G., for the nudge on this.)