25 November 2014

Living the Privileged Life

I live a privileged life.

I have a job that is flexible, pays me well, and that I love.
I have a supportive husband, a great daughter.
I have an extended network of family and friends who would be there in a minute if I needed them.
I have a reliable car.
I have an education.
I own a home.

And I have white skin.

It is more than likely that my white skin is one of the biggest reasons I have all of those other things - even the extended network of family and friends.  Because my family had all of those other things too, which enabled them to be present for me.  If I was sick and had to stay home from school, my mom didn't lose a day's pay for that - a day's pay that would have been the difference in the rent being met.  When I wrecked the family car at 16, my parents had the resources to get it fixed (I had to pay them back out of my part-time job salary); they didn't have to get a payday loan to fix it so they could go to work.

I was on sports teams because we could afford the uniforms.
I was well-nourished because we could buy fresh vegetables.
I was privileged then and that has made me privileged now.

I am raising a privileged daughter.

I never - ever - lose sight of my privilege.
Because to do so, is to dishonor my friends and colleagues who did not have the same story as me.
The story where their skin color gave them things instead of took it away.

Some days I am less respectful of my privilege than other days, but it is NEVER far from my mind.

A few weeks ago I got pulled over for speeding.
The white officer who stopped me started telling me even before he got all the way to the car that this was just a warning.  He continued to reassure me - even offered to assist me with getting my license out of my purse (rather than presuming I was digging out some pepper spray or a weapon).  He never asked me any questions about where I was going or why I was on a rural road in the middle of Indiana.  He never said anything but kind, sweet things to me.

And as I pulled away with my warning in the seat beside me, I started to cry.
Because I knew that my experience with that police officer was not at all the experience of a black man my age in an urban area.  I have friends raising black children.  Their boys will one day know that they cannot be their authentic selves in the presence of law enforcement.  It won't matter that they're pastors or attorneys or neurosurgeons.

Because before they are any of that, they are black men.

This is privilege.
And I don't want it any more.
I want justice instead.
I want society to stop judging people based on how they look.
I want us to stop being more afraid in the "run down" part of town than we are in the suburbs.
I want us to stop pretending like it doesn't exist.

Nothing makes me angrier than a white man who says they are not privileged.
Seriously, it makes my blood boil!

Because you are!  No amount of denying it will change it - in fact, denying it perpetuates the problem.

You want less riots after verdicts?  Vote in people who will change the broken system.
You want poor people of color to get a job?  Stop voting to slash Federal employment - a source of jobs for many!
You want people off of food stamps?  Raise the minimum wage.

Some days I am so very grateful for the life of privilege I was fortunate enough to be born into.
When I can walk the streets at night with my husband and big black dog without anyone fearing us, I am grateful.
When we pay our bills with money left for fun, I am grateful.
When I choose whether or not to talk to my daughter about yet-another shooting, I am grateful.

Because if my skin were brown, my story would be different.
My heart is broken over Ferguson.
But it's not over the decision not to indict.
My heart is broken because our laws allow an officer to kill a teenage boy in the middle of a daylit street.
My heart is broken because we have to use the word "another" when speaking of police violence.
My heart is broken at the despair my brothers and sisters feel.

Surviving and thriving are two very different things.
I have the choice of whether to survive or thrive.
Not everyone does.
Privilege gives that to me.

Lord, come quickly!

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