Do you acknowledge your privilege!?
Do you realize and own the set of variables that makes you a HAVE versus a HAVE NOT?
Everything is not just black and white. Those charcoals, smokes, pewters, and ashes represent everything and everyone in between. It benefits the ultimate systems of wealth in this country to include some of the typical outliers into it’s horn of plenty. What groups do you belong to that separate you and give you an upper hand based on no real work on your part. That’s privilege.
Chances are, if you are successful and stable, some unearned privilege was bestowed upon you by birthright that helped put you on a journey to more. If you have fared better than your ancestors, if you share characteristics with the HAVES, chances are you are a HAVE in some dichotomous reality.
Both a HAVE and a HAVE NOT, but handing down more HAVEs than nots. We are products of our privilege, as will be our children.
I give you the story of my child.
Yesterday was his first day of high school at my alma mater, if you read my blogs you know it well, Renaissance High School, Home of the Phoenix. We Soar. A Detroit Public High School of Excellence… ask about us.
Anyway, his uniform is khaki pants and a white or maroon collared shirt. He can wear the shoes of his choice, so this summer we stocked up on J’s… Jordan Sneakers. I work everyday, I own stock, it’s my money, so yes I buy my son Jordan’s. Anyway… he has blue and white, beige and white, all beige, gray and red, and several pairs of other shoes he can wear. It’s a collection to be proud of when you are only 14 and wear a 13 shoe. So when he donned his maroon shirt and beige and white boys, he looked down and had a full blown MELT DOWN! “I can’t wear these shoes, these only go with THE WHITE SHIRTS…”
Jesus be a color wheel.
My child hasn’t yet learned the fine art of neutrals and color matching with different hues of the same color. So he lost it. He demanded we go get some maroon shoes. Sir… no. And then he said it…
“But you HAVE MONEY!”
Hahaaaaaaa! Yes, young padawan, I have money. You have no job, beer money, and Ace of Spades dreams. Especially if you think I’m buying another pair of sneakers because you don’t know your colors. My dude…
So, we had a gentle but firm discussion about privilege in the car, and my desires to give him every single thing he needs, but his responsibility, in light of that privilege, to participate in having his wants met. You had all summer to mow lawns and make some money… all the opportunity and access is available to you. I had to work hard to ensure you have things easier than me… but it still won’t be easy.
That’s the dichotomy
Race. White people generally have access to and come from privilege versus people of color. We outrank them in lack… of education, poverty, wages, and overall absence of wealth. In 2019 we still have firsts, because we’ve been left out of the system for 400 years, and treated as a tertiary class, treated worse than most people, a lot of things, and some animals. While that is our American history, it’s not fully our present.
Color. If you are come from a lot of any combination of educated, lighter skinned, middle class or higher, professional network of individuals, chances are you are a HAVE. And while people with lighter skin are STILL looked at as less threatening and/or “less Black” by those in power, so we tend to get access that our darker skinned brothas and sistas don’t always get. A sad but true reality that has its basis in slavery. But as we embrace our own melanin, and don’t make excuses for it or degrade it, we can rise up in our collective power.
Class. Within many communities of color, particularly the African American community, people who come from educated people tend to go to better schools, go on to college, and have a network of people to rely on professionally whether through familial channels or their own organizations, groups, and friends. Financial stability and professionalism just keep pushing you further up the totem. The system of capitalism that creates this spectrum is based on keeping you a Have by keeping others a Have not. That’s the way. But no matter your lane, unless you create your own, rarely do we reach that top head of the totem. It’s not impossible, but it often calls for us to be sacrificial.
So after school, my child, his father, and I sat down to have a conversation. He said he had to get a gym uniform. I took the money out and handed it to him. He said his shoe hurt his foot and he needed insoles, and his father said they’d go get them tomorrow. We discussed lunch and a variety of topics, all that cost, of course. The minute we asked him about something he needed to do, he had an excuse and all this unnecessary commentary about why it didn’t get done.
We let off a lot of rah rah that basically ended with this lesson:
Recognize your privilege. It didn’t come easy for us, came much harder for our parents, was damn near impossible but it happened for our grandparents, and was denied to our great-grandparents. Just four generations away from the very denial of your intellectual humanity and financial success. This is basically handed to you. But you have to EARN that next stage. Period. You can be better than us by birthright only or better than us by birth and by hustle. That birthright is for your first name, that hustle, as Dame Dash would say, is for your last name. It allows you to pass the torch.
My great grandparents planted the sycamore tree. My grandparents got shade under it once in awhile on their walk. Our parents got to have picnics under that tree, shielded at important times from the elements. We sat under the sycamore. Planted flowers around it, climbed it, found our way around it. Hustled from the tree to behind a wood desk with our names on plaques decorating the walls. Our children get to be leaders, creators, visionaries because of the paper we made by the shade of that tree. That makes them more sicker … Masters of their Class.
Teach your children about privilege. Acknowledge your own, but make it clear that the trees that shade us, the privileges we bestowed upon them, have blood on the root and blood on the leaves. Shit didn’t come easy. Just 400 years in, we have gone from property to buying the property we built for free. Racism still exists. Colorist still exists, but we have more power over our class than ever before. We have come so far, yet have so far to go. They find themselves in the best position yet. Yet their privilege yields a sense of entitlement, to entitlements they simply were not born with. For them to get to that next level, they are going to have to sacrifice as well… in blood and sweat!
-Thank you to Anika McEvans for the topic! She’s an awesome mom and motivator. Ask her about #teamnotuition in the comments.