I'm not who I was.
Have you ever tried to quietly gather a heard of hyped-up slippery pigs? I imagine it’s probably not too much different than gathering a gaggle of cousins. It felt much akin to the pig races at the fair, only without the enclosed lane and the cheering and the food reward in a cage at the end. But eventually we did get around to this…
On Thanksgiving morning, my sister ran a 10k. Then she came home and cooked a turkey. Because evidently hosting the family isn’t exhausting enough without first running uphill in the cold.
We’ve had a good little family visit. If their decibel level is any indication of their happiness, the cousins are having a grand ‘ol time playing Star Wars, hide-and-seek, slumber party, and generally just running around like a heard of wild banshees.
(This is the point at which I’d like to give the disclaimer that if you read my long FB post, then what follows will be nothing new to you).
The other day my sister posted on her status about how the neighbors need not worry, for the guns her son and nephews were wielding were in fact toys. It was a playful statement… Nobody was actually worried. I mean, the boys are little, and the guns make battery operated sounds and flash colorful lights. There was OBVIOUSLY no threat. Probably in light of recent events, someone responded that it wouldn’t be a problem because her nephews are white and she lives in a nice neighborhood.
Well, actually, one of her nephews is NOT white. Right now he’s an adorable 4 year old bobble head. But he won’t always be 4. And he doesn’t live in this neighborhood. What if it’s 10 years later, and he’s a buff 14 year old black male creeping around a white family’s house playing a game with his cousins, but the neighbors don’t know him and see only him? He’s not a threat. But would they perceive one? And what might they do about it? What if he’s just as close to his almost 19 year old sister then as he is now at her age of almost 9 (I hope he is), and they playfully banter with each other, or he “attacks” her with a great big hug. He’s not a threat. But would he be perceived as one?
I don’t condone senseless acts of violence whether done out of fear or retaliation. So this isn’t a “what should have been done in Ferguson” post. I don’t pretend to know all the details.
What it is is a reminder of reality. White privilege is a real thing. Just because you aren’t hatefully racist doesn’t mean you are 100% not prejudice. And just because you may not have experienced the hurtfulness of someone you love being treated unfairly because of the color of their skin doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist and that those who claim it does are merely playing a “card”. The hurt has been grown from long-standing roots. My black son receives some white privilege right now because he’s little and he’s with us all the time and he’s perceived as the vulnerable one. (And quite frankly, he’s excessively adorable, which doesn’t hurt. If “adorable privilege” is a thing, he has it.)
Here’s the thing: kids grow. And they aren’t with you all the time. And because that visual association won’t always exist, reality is that I WILL have to teach my son that his public behavior has to be better than best for his own safety. I will have to teach him that appearance does in fact matter. And he will have to try harder to earn the respect of many. Not all, but many. It really doesn’t matter if that’s right or not, because that’s real. And part of my job as a parent is to equip my children to operate well in the world that they live in. That means different things for my male child than it does my female child, and it means different things for my white child and my black one. (Or if you are my 4 year old, my “yellow” child and my “brown” one. I keep trying to tell him I’m not yellow, but he insists that I am. Then again he’s technically brow and not black, so I suppose that’s an equally fair assessment. 😉 ) One thing remains consistent for both of them though… I pray that they will understand that responding with grace will always be more beneficial than responding with the pride of trying to prove one’s right-ness.
Just because I’m the parent of an African-American child doesn’t mean that I suddenly was indwelled with a full understanding of the deep-seeded race issue. I would be ignorant to think so and I don’t pretend to. But it has definitely grown more sympathy and awareness in me. It has caused me to acknowledge truth that I may have otherwise ignored. (Really that’s the root word of “ignorant”… to ignore).
I hope that wherever this season finds you, that you will intentionally become aware of the privilege that you have and be truly grateful for it. No matter who you are or where you’re from (“what you dig”… j/k…), if you are reading this right now you have access to technology. If that’s the only privilege you have, you have something. So be grateful for that. But my guess is that you have so much more than you realize. Don’t be ignorant. Be aware. Be gracious.