Nintendo and Gameboys: My Introduction to Economic Privilege

by Faisal Alam, RG Events and Operations Associate
As the newest staff member of Resource Generation (RG), I was asked to write a blog post to introduce myself. Not knowing quite what to write (I have so many stories to tell!), I thought about the many identities I hold and their relationship to the work of RG. I’m a queer Muslim of Pakistani descent. I’m an immigrant from a middle class family background and now part of the working class in America struggling to make ends meet. I’m South Asian and a person of color.

Before the age of 10, I had lived in 3 countries on 2 continents (Germany, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan).  When I was 10, my family moved to a small town in Connecticut.  I grew up in a predominantly white town and in an upper middle-class neighborhood.  The US Census Bureau says the town is 92.1% white and median household income is $84,339.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was “different.” I was a 1.5 generation South Asian immigrant, Muslim and queer.

I learned about being the “other” very early on. Outside of the racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia that I experienced growing up, I also saw how wealth and economic privilege were flaunted by my peers. I can vividly remember my friends bringing the latest Gameboy or Nintendo game they received as a Christmas gift.  Or wearing a Banana Republic sweater and Diesel jeans they had received as a birthday present.  As kids and teenagers, my middle school and high school peers probably didn’t even realize what they were doing.  But while their parents could afford to buy the latest toys and clothes, my mom would take my brother and I to the after-Christmas sales at K-mart. Every Christmas and every birthday celebrated was another reminder that my family was not as economically privileged as our peers.

As I grew older and became more politically aware, learning about the economic injustice that is rooted in our country’s history, I came to the conclusion that I would never know what economic security felt like. I’ve worked in one way or another since I was 18. In the 20 years that have passed I can’t speak of any significant savings either in cash or in my retirement account. All my full-time work has been with non-profit organizations, who aren’t exactly known for high salaries.  During times when I was not employed full-time, I was a consultant working for myself and had to pay self-employment tax and contribute to Social Security and Medicare (which would normally be paid for by an employer).  

While I’ve accepted that I will always worry about my economic security, I have also worked hard to build a community of friends who are my family of choice, and fellow activists who I call my comrades. This core of individuals are the family that I want to grow old with.

My vision for a future world is a place where people like me won’t have to worry about where they’ll end up when they’re too old to work. A country that will take care of my physical, mental and economic well-being. I also envision a world in which what we wear and what toys we get for our birthdays won’t matter. A world in which kids and teens won’t be thinking about economic disparity.

Resource Generation’s vital work moves us forward in that vision. Young people of wealth have the leverage and ingenuity to fully realize this world. I’m grateful for the opportunity to help promote this vision. Thank you for welcoming me to the RG family.