A man on the streets taught me about privilege
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Student Life

A Man On The Street Taught Me About Privilege

"I have AIDS, Full blown AIDS."

A Man On The Street Taught Me About Privilege

I woke up one morning at my friend's house across campus. My red hair was matted, my winged eyeliner smeared, and my lipstick cracking off. I looked the furthest thing from approachable as I began my walk home. My eyes half open, blinded by the morning sun, I was in no mood to talk. After walking a few blocks I heard a friendly, "Good morning." I uttered, "Yeah, you too." At a steady pace, I continued to walk in a complete daze, but was stopped after I heard a hushed, "Please."

I winced, an odor so foul was in the air. A man stood before me, clutching a stack of papers, he was drenched for some reason and his clothes were filthy. "Are you alright, sir?" I asked. He smiled at me, half his teeth were missing, the rest had a black film over them, but none the less he had a beautiful smile, light in his eyes. "I don't tell no stories, ma'am, I really don't." He held up the packet in his hands that said 'HIV/AIDS' with his name printed under it. His arms were covered in sores along with his neck.

Our eyes met and the only thing I could say was, "I'm so sorry." He nodded, "I have Aids, full blown aids." He took his hat off showing me his bare head covered in sores, "I have scabies, I'm itching, I feel sick and I'm out here on my own." I asked, "What happened, sir?" He looked guilty, "I was in jail for a while. I found out I have aids, and I got scabies from sleeping outside. I don't mean to bother you, but I need Dove soap for my skin, and tide to wash my clothes with and a water bottle."

I looked down at my purse, feeling guilty that I only brought my ID and apartment keys. "I don't have anything on me sir, or else I would give it to you." He wasn't angry or upset, with a sincere, "God bless you." he walked away.

As I walked back to my apartment I couldn't help but wonder, "why him?" Here I am, my parents put me through school, I'm able to live on my own and eat three meals a day, meanwhile this mean is sick with Aids and can't go a couple seconds without scratching himself. He was in this situation because he had an addiction. The more I thought about it, the more it upset me. I know what if I struggled with addiction, I would be in some treatment center in Florida with all the support my family could give me and a second chance at life. That's not because I would deserve to live more than he does, rather because of privilege. My parents are educated, they do very well; I've never not had something that I needed.

Here I am, never even wearing the same outfit twice in a week while this man is covered in scabies. It broke my heart that if I made the same decisions he did, I would essentially have a 'get out of jail free card' because of my parent's financial situation/background.

Anyone could easily say, "He chose to be on drugs." Which is true, but he obviously was not given the support he needed to get lean before he contracted HIV/Aids. Addiction is such a common theme in my life (though I have not gone through it personally), I've watched so many people combat it, but on the other hand, I've also been to a few overdose funerals. I'm not saying that addiction and privilege go hand in hand entirely, rather than someone's quality of life is based on their family's background, and this vicious cycle only continues.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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