In a sea of tents and huts and people, I confront my privilege. It is a new experience for me, a low-income Black girl from Pueblo, Colorado. Usually, I am painfully aware of my lack of privilege. My time at a private university has taught me that lower middle-class in my hometown is dirt poor compared to some of my classmate’s upbringings.
But in the Jungle of Calais, France, things are different. The Jungle is a mass of nearly 6,000 people who have fled horrific pasts, hunger, violence and other trauma I cannot fathom. Jamal Ismail, who provides free food to the refugees, said it is called the Jungle because the country treats refugees like animals.
So why did I come to the Jungle? For a journalism class.
Of course, I understand the necessity of learning to report on humanitarian crises like this one. But I cannot shake the feeling of shame knowing I can so easily access the means to live comfortably and peacefully while they do not.
But acknowledging that privilege is not self-loathing, it is self-awareness. It is knowing what resources are at my fingertips and appreciating the advantages I enjoy. Although I feel uncomfortable confronting their tragedy while I live so well, to ignore their pain would be a waste of this privilege I possess.
The United Nations counts nearly 20 million registered refugees in the world, who deserve to have their voices heard. Maybe in affluent Evanston, Illinois, my humble upbringing is not worth much. But as a journalist in the Jungle, I can force the world to acknowledge the reality of the refugees’ suffering. After all, it is the least I can do.