A few years ago a young man that I knew stole a set of Dr. Dre Beats from a teacher’s desk. No one would have even known had he not gone class to class bragging. What made matters worse was that he bragged about the principal “restating the offense” in a way that made it appear to be an “accidental theft”. He admittedly took the headphones because he wanted them which is sad because he could’ve bought 100 pairs that day. Instead of suffering any consequences, he was given a free pass…one that would not have been given had he not been who he was…rich and white.
Sadly, this is the norm of the environment in which many of our kids have grown accustomed to. As a mother, I teach my kids right from wrong but I also have to teach them how the rules of life sometimes apply differently depending on many factors with the majority being race and class. Growing up, we heard…”you know you can’t get away with that…you’re black!”. As much as I hated to acknowledge it, it was true and to not acknowledge it would be not preparing my own children for the world in which they live.
I’ve referenced Jose Vilson’s (@thejlv) work multiple times as someone who challenges my thinking. His most recent post, regarding privilege after a pretty hefty twitter conversation, was the subject of discussion in our home this morning. The premise of our conversation was mainly centered around the debate as to whether or not privilege was a discussion related to education and if it were of importance enough to discuss.
My son, a freshman and eternal voice of reason, wrote the following…
“Privilege is nothing more than a fancy way of acknowledging our biases and prejudices. The thing is that it exist everywhere. There’s a ”tall man” privilege in basketball. We’ll give a free pass to the tall guy until his actions on the court prove otherwise. There’s a “good looking” privilege at parties. If you’re looking fly, you get in and if not, you better be friends with someone looking fly. There’s a “black educated” privilege. If you speak a certain way, white people take you seriously and are not afraid to engage in conversation. If you speak or act like you’re “from the hood”, the assumption is that you aren’t educated.
There’s a “skinny” privilege too but that’s largely because looks are the first point of judgement. We pay a bit more attention to the “skinny person” in the room versus the one who is not. Look around and tell me that I’m wrong.
Teachers have biases too and certain kids, mostly white, are given free passes over others. They get treated a certain way. I’ve heard time and again, “certain kids don’t do well in that class” and year after year, it’s brushed under the rug. Year after year, non-white kids are removed from certain classes and no one ever deals with the real problem…the teacher. Yet, every year a white male excels and wins awards from that teacher’s help yet none of us ever stood a chance. We can call it privilege but let’s be real and call it what it is…excused racism.
Even when you didn’t get a certain job, clearly because you’re black, you didn’t sit here, cry, complain and take it. You packed your bags and went somewhere that privilege didn’t matter. It exist because we let it. What if we didn’t let it?”
This is the moment where I shall ponder over the words of my son.
“Privilege exist because we let it. What if we didn’t?”