The truth is that I have stayed clear of politics on this blog, quite purposely. This blog is about Skiffdom and my thoughts while living in our chaos. This has not changed; this is not a political blog. This is a very Skiff experience that led me to a deep understanding of what white privilege is and how my family benefits from it.
I have to be honest, I used to scoff at the idea of white privilege, it wasn't that I was being purposely racist. I just looked at my life and couldn't understand how anyone would consider it privileged. I was raised in poverty, where we didn't always know where our next meal was coming from. My Dad worked harder than anyone I have ever met but with a family of 10 there just wasn't enough to go around. Our pastor would often show up at our house with groceries because he knew we needed them, even if we didn't talk about it. Our clothes were second hand hand-me-downs. Our shoes were worn. Our furniture was given to us. This is not a complaint. Our house was always full of people and my parents somehow managed to turn a widows mite into enough to feed whoever was there. They gave to others even out of our need. But I would not ever apply the word privileged to my childhood.
In school, I was bullied because I was always different than those around me. My mom once said I was born old. I just came into the world older than my years. My friends were all in late twenties and thirties when I was still a young teenager. I was the girl that stayed after to class to pick up all the spitballs the rest of the class had spat at me while the teacher was in the hallway, the girl who matured physically too young, the one who spent her time reading a book instead of playing with the other kids. I definitely wasn't privileged. My whiteness didn't stop the bullies. It didn't keep food on the table. It didn't stop me from being abused by others. It didn't keep me safe, or warm, or make me feel secure. How is that privilege, I wondered.
Once married my whiteness didn't protect me from having kids with autism, it didn't make my marriage a good one, it didn't keep mental illness from wreaking havoc in my children's and my husband's brains. It didn't keep food on our table, a roof over our heads, our house heated, or any number of other things that we lost or went without. In fact my experience was much more like that of many of my black friends than that of my white friends. So where was my privilege?
My friends, I apologize from the depths of my soul. I was so blind to the privilege until an experience in December tore the blinders from my eyes in a most dramatic and heart wrenching fashion. Is there any other way in Skiffdom? LOL
It was a normal day in Skiffdom. I was picking the twins up from one of their last days of high-school before Christmas break when my phone began to blow-up. I couldn't answer one call before another number was beeping in. I finally was able to pick up without my phone disconnecting because of all the new calls coming in. It was a police officer. He told me that there had been an incident with my youngest son at the bank two blocks from our house. My son was fine, how long would it take me to get there. I was at the high-school less than a mile from my house. I had been gone less than 15 minutes. When I left everything was fine. What could possibly have happened in that short amount of time? Why was my son at the bank? He didn't answer my questions, just told me to get there as quickly as possible.
It seems in the 15 minutes I was gone, he and his oldest brother had gotten into an argument about who had to bring out the dog. My youngest, who was closing in on a manic episode, just snapped. He ran out of the house, barefoot in a full meltdown. He ran into the bank ranting and waving his pocket knife around (why I don't know, he has no memory of doing any of this so I can't get answers from him).
I ran over to my son and gave him a hug; while I was hugging him my first thought,after the relief that he was safe,was "Thank God he isn't black or someone would have shot him for sure." At that instant my blinders fell away and I completely understood white privilege. White privilege isn't that my life has been easy. It isn't that I have money or even opportunity. White privilege is the fact that my mentally ill, autistic son went into a bank, with a small pocket knife, in a meltdown and came out alive. White privilege is that underneath all my excuses and reasoning, in a moment when my soul was stripped bare, I knew that the only reason he was sitting on that curb and not in an ambulance or in a body bag was because he had white skin. This is Texas. I can guarantee you any number of people in that bank were armed, besides the bank security and the police. And I was able to hug my son and get him the mental help he needed. I knew my good friend, who has two autistic boys who are more severe than my son, would almost certainly have not been able to do the same, had it been one of her boys in the same situation. The difference would only have been the color of their skin. That breaks me in ways I can't even begin to put into words.
This is how broken our society is. This is white privilege. Now that I see it, I am going to do everything in my power to make sure it changes. To my friends of color, I can only beg your forgiveness for my years of blind ignorance. I am so sorry