Friday, August 15, 2014

The truth of white privilege

By an accident of birth I was born privileged. 

I was born a white male.

My gender and my race set me up in a position of amazing advantage. 

To deny this basic truth would be the ultimate in self-deception.  To pretend that I've "made it own my own" would be the most damaging lie.

No one ever turned my father or me away from a drinking fountain.  In fact, my society thought so much of us that we had a designated fountain with the word "ONLY" set in place to assure no one but our kind drank from these special places of refreshment. 

No one ever turned me away or thought of turning me away from a school, a hotel, a neighborhood, a church, a restaurant, a business establishment or a job due to my racial identity. 

My father moved from share cropping in West Texas to being a successful real estate developer.  How?  He was smart, but not formally educated beyond the 11th grade.  He got an opportunity.  He was given a chance. 

Everyone in his work world was white.  The job he began with at the City of Richardson could have been filled by a black man, but that's not how things worked.  He was able to move into the private sector from that job and its experiences.  I have to believe that the only thing separating a black dad from such success was the absence of an invitation to give it a try. 

Growing up, I never thought of myself or my family in racial terms.  Such thoughts were reserved for people  of color. 

Special schools were reserved for me and my friends, and they were all white.  The black kids in the area had their own schools.  I never saw the students or their schools.

The barriers facing my black and Hispanic friends as they grew up were real, considerable and almost impenetrable.   It literally took an act of Congress to open doors sealed shut for so long.  Actually, it was a matter of cutting doors through thick, unforgiving walls that finally opened up some passages for advancement in spite of their racial identity. 

But, it's not all about history, or the past.  Today it is certainly not all about "the progress" we've made. 

There is no place for smugness when it comes to racial justice in the United States. 

We have an African American president.  That is a signal achievement for the nation. 

However, don't be fooled.

White privilege, and male at that, remains a powerful force in our culture. 

And personally, before I get too sold on my own accomplishments, it is always helpful to remind myself that I started, via a genetic lottery, with a huge advantage. 

If you look at life as if it were a football game, I was born on my opponents' 5-yard line, while they weren't even in the stadium. 

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