I think this rhetoric is incredibly powerful. Systemic inequality ensures that many don’t have equal opportunities or opportunities at all. Just because someone doesn’t have the same opportunities, doesn’t mean that they don’t have the same talent. I think that too often we enjoy looking at everything that is wrong in our society without actually doing anything to help the individuals who are actually oppressed. The students at Year Up don’t want endless intellectualization about their circumstances or excuses to be made for them because of where and to whom they were born. What they want, almost unanimously upon speaking to them, is to be given a fair shot—they want an opportunity. Year Up provides students with a six-month intensive skill-training program in a high support, high expectation environment. Students are then placed in an internship with a Fortune 500 company. This effectively gives students opportunities that they were previously denied.
So, in conclusion, I think that it is important that when we converse about the systemic oppression that certain groups face, we make sure that we are also doing something that will tangibly help them—tangibly give them an opportunity. Because the reality is, most people don’t want a handout, they want a hand up.
By: Sam Furlong