Throughout the flight and during our time in the airport, I took note of the changes that were occurring around me. The landscape outside the plane was quite varied over the course of our flight. Just before I flew over the Arabian Gulf I saw incredible folds in the earth that reminded me of the Grand Canyon. The flight attendants wore beautiful head scarves. The number of women wearing the hijab had increased in frequency from what I normally see in Boston as well, and I noticed variation, such as the niqāb that covers the face as well. One woman, wearing an all-black niqāb, only had a small slit for her eyes. She sat in a wheelchair on the shuttle and when she stretched out her feet I noticed she was wearing pink, sparkly sketchers. My mother, Lorie, noted the gliding, graceful way that women appear to walk when they are draped with cloth from head to toe.
At the airport in Dubai, I settled for navigating myself to the hotel shuttle and gluing my attention to the window throughout the ride. The first thing that struck me was how hot it was in the moment that I stepped out of the airport (a humid 35 degrees Celsius). The first word that came to me when I thought of the heat was “oppressive” and I couldn’t help but think of how privileged I was. I only had to walk in the heat for several seconds while I transitioned from one air conditioned location to another. I thought of the many many buildings the plane flew over as we descended into Dubai and wondered how many of them had air conditioning or any of the comforts I still catch myself taking for granted.
It is wrong however, to assume that everyone in Dubai lacks air conditioning and privilege. Such general statements are frequently wrong. Dubai is a very rich city, and it takes pride in its word class airport and sky scrapers. The Burj Khalifa (160 floors high) was poking through the hazy clouds as my flight descended into Dubai. It glowed orange and pink against a barely blue sky.
From this vantage point, whether it’s flying into Dubai on a world class airplane or sitting in an air-conditioned hotel with a luxury pool, I am starkly aware of my privilege as a white American. I truly believe that we must acknowledge where we come from to make any progress. It is my goal to recognize and own my privilege to better serve my community. And in these weeks, I will give my best effort at contributing to a community in Uganda. This is my third trip to Uganda, and the connections between my company and the community in Kampala have stood for almost a decade. I pledge to not only give but to ask what is needed. I pledge to not exploit stereotypes of poverty and to be vigilant about the white savior complex. I pledge to tell my life story and own where I come from, even it is makes me feel guilty. I pledge to use this guilt to better understand the people around me, and the power that we have as well as the limitation. I pledge to use my life experiences to educate and empower the people around me. I pledge to remain critical of the process so that the results can be accessible sustainable for those we come to serve.