Sunday, July 26, 2015

Growing up with White Privilege: How A Fiction Destroys our Life Narratives

Good Morning, Students

We are ready to move on to our next composition assignment. As with previous assignments, you are limited to 2500 words. Make them count. I will, of course, grade for grammar and spelling, along with style (unless you're white, in which case, you get an "A").
Your task is to gloat about how you never had to study in school but got straight A's, not because you did well on assignments and tests, but because your teachers gave you good grades because you were white.
Then, spend some time talking about the sports programs, recreational or school-based, in which you didn't have to do weight training, calisthenics, running, or skill developments, but nonetheless won scholarships, not based on skills and achievement, but based on your whiteness.
Follow this with a brief history of entering the work force, how you were immediately selected as CEO for a Fortune 500 company, not because of an extended track record of successes in prior business ventures, but because of your whiteness.
I will be interested to read your stories.

* * * *

Perhaps you were born with dyslexia. Or, perhaps, your father was killed Afghanistan. Or, perhaps, your mother suffered a debilitating stroke when you were ten. Or, perhaps, you were the victim of a child predator. Maybe you were raised by grandparents who only spoke a foreign language at home.

Maybe the rural school you attended did not get the same funding, quality teachers, or books as the city schools in your State's financial center. The mistakes of your parents' parents were echoed in how you were raised.

Perhaps, in school, studying did not come easy. But study you did. For acceptable grades.

Perhaps, at work, you lacked some of the schmooze of your colleagues, and while many recognized that you were diligent, thorough, and bright, patrimony and nepotism required more of you than you could offer.

So you made it out of childhood. Never having tasted a silver spoon, never having vacationed in Vail or Rome.

So you made it out of school. You got your diploma. You were never inducted into the National Honor Society, but nor were you ever suspended. You got your Associates, or your Bachelor's. But you then spent ten years paying off your student loan debt (no silver spoon, remember).

You landed a job. You worked the job. You gave it the same consistent, dedicated, enduring attention as you had ploddingly applied in other areas of life. Truth is, though, while you might become middle management, or shop steward, you have no likelihood of becoming the CEO.

And all of that is okay with you.

At the end of the day, whether you just didn't have the same charm as some, the same wits as some, the same gifts as some, you've assembled a reasonable, livable life around yourself.

Then you turn on the Sunday morning news programs, or one of the evening cable news programs. "WHITE PRIVILEGE."

The first thing that comes to mind is, "Gosh, I wish I had experienced WHITE PRIVILEGE."

And then the president of your nation, a man who built nothing, who established no industry, who tore no farm out of forests, who actually really and truly brings a blank resume to the office, comes on the news, looks you and everyone around you and says, "You didn't build that."

If it's a conservative channel, he may be followed by some well-heeled folks -- attorneys, businessmen -- who rightly resent the ugly ignorance of the man. But you resent it too. Because, in fact, you did build it.

Whether "it" was the cars for which Henry Ford got credit, the railroads for which Andrew Carnegie got credit, or the energy resources for which Rockefeller got credit, you, or people just like you showed up, day after back breaking, or mind melting day. Digging in mines and digging with their minds.

And there's that ass again, spouting about "White Privilege." It infuriates because the rank presumptions that "white folk" are born two rungs of the ladder up above others was never true in your life, or in the lives of your friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances.

In fact, "White Privilege" is a lie that attacks the endurance of your spirit. The gumption of carrying forward into a middle American life. It's the drool and spite of a special kind of resentment and hatred.

So, yeah, now you know why I wrote this piece. Because I tire of the spirit-destroying, inhumanity of that particular lie.