Before we begin this journey down a path that might not go exactly as you are playing out in your head right now, I would like to suggest a few things before you begin reading the rest of the article. I would like to ask that you consider doing something over the days and weeks to come.
One, I would like to request that you turn your TV off.
Turn your TV off, go outside and have a conversation with your neighbors. Go to the store, say hello to people you pass, make small conversation with others and engage the people around you. I think you’ll find people are far more harmonious than you are being told.
Even though perhaps you’re mad right now about the issues of the day, I have a feeling you may already know that anyway.
The other is that I would like you to consider, if even for only a moment, the possibility that the national media is fueling the turmoil of the day. You know what turmoil I’m referring to. It’s that white privilege, black lives matter buzz that’s been going around.
I grew up middle class on the nice side of town. My back yard connected with a golf course. I’m sure that sounds dreamy and all “white picket fency” when I say it like that, but there’s a deeper truth beyond the fake facade of the middle class white boy living by the golf course story.
My Dad grew up on the east side of Freeport, Illinois. Freeport is a town in northern Illinois with a population of about 25,000 people and at present, a median income of roughly 25,000 a year. The east side is where the majority of the poorer people in town lived, and to this day still do. Poor, financially that is.
My Dad’s father died when my Dad was around ten or so, so my Dad didn’t grow up with a father around. Any visions you may have in your head of a college education for my white Dad would be a joke. My Dad’s family didn’t have any money. They were dirt poor. My Dad barely had a high school education let alone any thought whatsoever of college.
My Dad however landed a job at Kelly Springfield in his twenties. That job, not any education, provided my entire life growing up.
In my neighborhood however, my city decided to build public housing. They built 20 or so section 8 apartment buildings with about 4 apartments each in them. I believe 74 apartments altogether. So basically, “the hood”, which is what we called it back in the day, came to “whiteys” side of town. In fact, they built it right behind a public school. I used to hang out behind that school when I was young.
One day two long haired freaky looking white kids walked through the row of trees that separated the projects from the school. I’m guessing the row trees were planted there so that the school kids and teachers didn’t have to actually see public housing being behind them, but none the less those two freaky white kids from the projects I met that day, ended up becoming some of my best friends for life.
No money, no education, no college, no breaks and living in the hood and two lives that might appear, a million miles apart. We’re not talking about a two parent home either and if you think police don’t pull over long haired freaking looking white people and harass them, I can assure you they do.
My neighbors however, in my white upper middle class neighborhood by the golf course, were both black families. It was the Huff’s on one side and the Robinson’s on the other. Quite the cleshay from the image of the day of black lives matter and white privilege.
In my life, I saw white people living in the section 8 hood and black people living in middle class. I know it. I saw it. I lived it and that was 35-40 years ago. To this very day I still see one of my old neighbors and we stop and say hi to each other and I still hang out, when we can, with my white freaky looking friends from the hood. (They’re not that freaky)
On both sides of that colored fence, I can tell you first hand are some really great people.
To look at them and say they are privileged because of their skin color would be an insult. How exactly do I tell a white person who grew up in the hood of section 8 housing that they are privileged? White people, take a knee? In the same manner, to look at my black neighbors and say they are (or aren’t) privileged would also be in an insult. Can you imagine me going to them and saying, “Oh, you’re privileged to live here”?
When people talk about race or how black lives matter or white privilege, I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Some of my best friends of 35+ years came from the hood. White people. Some of my fondest memories are growing up with two black families living next to me by the golf course.
I’m a white guy who grew up middle class in a two parent home right next to the hood. I don’t have an education, by your standards, my parents didn’t have money for college and in fact, it wasn’t even discussed in my home.
Yet my career is in marketing and technology, one of the leading and most advanced industries to be in of our time. I didn’t go to school, I didn’t graduate college, I don’t have a plaque on the wall and in fact, I never even graduated high school. I’m white, and I grew up in a middle class neighborhood in a loving, structured two parent home.
I imagine however just like the Huff’s or the Robinson’s, my story is the same. In truth it’s probably actually different because they probably had an education, whereas I didn’t. My successes however came from hard work. It came from going over and above what anyone ever expected or even asked me to do.
I didn’t have a choice.
I couldn’t fall back on my plaque on the wall, I had to prove myself which meant I needed to learn, watch and observe what everyone around me was doing and I had to do it better. I also realized that just because I didn’t have money, didn’t mean I had to look like it or act like it. I bet the Huff’s and the Robinson’s would say the same things about their lives. That they weren’t given any breaks, they weren’t privileged, they worked for it. They earned their place and like everyone, had obstacles to overcome all along the way.
Out of that section 8 housing not only did I meet lifelong, good people, there was a little white kid by the name of Brian Stewart who became an Illinois State Representative, and a little black kid named Larry, who became Dr. Larry (Williams) and is presently the CEO of the Rockford Housing Authority. I think I read once that Larry was making 100,000 a year and you know Brian Stewart is making at least that.
There is no white privilege and there is no black privilege. There’s only life privilege.
I have a son who’s 22 years old. He had a 3.8 GPA in high school, graduated early, studies Stephen Hawking books in his spare time for fun, and is currently teaching himself how to code in both Python and C++ computer languages along with cryptography. He’s an incredible self taught guitar player, has played the Rave in Milwaukee, the Congress Theatre in Chicago, was great at sports and even once pitched a no-hitter. A bright shining talented star and I don’t have enough money to send him to college. He’s working at a call center. All the opportunities he could have, all that await him in this life, yet all the whiteness in the world isn’t going to allow me to send my own son to school.
Care to take a guess how that might feel inside as a parent? To look at my son with his entire life ahead of him, so much talent and not have the means or opportunities to send him to school? How is my whiteness going to help him? It didn’t help me. How is my whiteness going to help my friends make it out of the hood? Their whiteness certainly didn’t help them or their parents either.
There’s only life privilege. That’s all you get. You don’t get any more or any less than I do. You get what this crazy messed up world handed you and you make the best of it. You fight for the opportunity, you plan, prepare, learn and you go for it. The first to the finish line wins and the race doesn’t give a rats ass what color you are. It also rewards you for 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th place. In life, you can even go from dirt poor, to wealthy, to dirt poor again too.
You’re alive! You have access to all of the information in the world these days. With a couple clicks of a mouse you can learn how to perform brain surgery, work on cars, fix a hot water heater and you can even learn how to play the guitar, piano or take dance lessons. You could be famous, rich, you could make a living in your underwear selling blankets to Eskimo’s in Alaska.
Privilege comes on an individual basis, not a color of your skin basis. I was privileged because my Dad got a job at Kelly’s. My Dad wasn’t privileged, he got lucky.
I don’t believe the Huff family had children but the Robinson’s did. I would say the father of that family wasn’t privileged at all, but his children certainly were. Privilege comes on an individual basis and privilege is a generational occurrence.
My father, the Huff’s and Robinson’s weren’t privileged but I and their children were. A half a century later, after you take a way all the jobs that once gave people opportunities, and people are just fighting to survive, now the next generation isn’t privileged. My son isn’t. He was at one time but he isn’t now. I also have a friend who is my age who currently lives in housing as I write this. Life is equal for no one.
Ironically enough, just look what direction my life took me. I started a news company two years ago. A news media that today reaches 100,000 people every week and I question why and what the hell am I doing all the time. But look what’s going on in our world. I can’t say that I even understand why, I just feel I’m supposed to tell this story.
According to the dictionary, a privilege is a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.
So you tell me I guess.
Who in the above true story are the privileged people and who are the underprivileged?
Just some dumb, uneducated, poor middle class white guy.