I’m gonna go all out on a limb here and write about something I can’t spell to save my life. Just to be on the safe side, I’ll add an image that will help me out:
Ever since I had the PRIVILEGE of being part of a conversation about white privilege (initiated by a black man) last fall, it’s a subject that’s been at the top of my mind much of the time. Not just white privilege, but male privilege, socio-economic privilege, educational privilege…the whole deal.
Here’s what I think is a pretty good definition of privilege: If you don’t have to think about it, you’re benefiting from it.
Yesterday I witnessed an incident that was a sickening combination of privilege and judging.
I was with a small group of people. We were approached by a woman who…didn’t quite look like she fit in in with the super-affluent, super-privileged neighborhood we were in. Yes, I realize that’s a judgment right there. We all do it. I admit it, I’m no saint.
This woman told us she needed assistance with her electrical bill. One of our group happened to have a card with names and phone numbers of local organizations that offer such assistance, and gave it to the woman, with suggestions for which organization to call first. (For reasons I won’t go into here, this response – instead of a gift of cash – was the best choice in this situation.)
Another member of the group wandered away for a moment, then came back and said, “Well, it’s a good thing nobody gave her anything. That woman just drove away in a BMW convertible.”
A couple of other people in the group did the eye roll and/or made the inevitable sarcastic comment: “Oh, right. And SHE needed help with her electric bill.”
I kept my mouth shut and squirmed.
Cuz here’s a place where I’ve been:
In my life as an adult wife and mother, through circumstances not of my own making, there have been years when I only had a car (a perfectly decent car, at that) due to the generosity of a kind relative. Years when our family had no choice but to receive public assistance. Times when we were just a few days away from needing to visit a local food pantry.
We were well-educated. Good citizens. Productive members of society. Worked hard for our church, and volunteered in our schools. We weren’t irresponsible. We weren’t lazy or “shiftless.” We weren’t using drugs. Life just slapped us upside the head with some crap that took a long time to get over.
But what if we had been irresponsible, or had been caught in the drug trap? Would that have made us unworthy of empathy or a hand up? That’s the kind of thinking that allows people to pass judgment on those they deem “less than.” It’s not the kind of attitude I was raised to have. I believe that everyone is worthy of kindness. That those who are able to help have the responsibility to do so.
When we were living that life on the edge, I did every damn thing I could to make it look like we were doing okay, so nobody knew how close we were to total ruin. I sure as hell didn’t want my children to live with the kind of judgment I was hearing today. What if this woman we’d encountered was simply doing her best to keep her kids from that stigma?
I only squirmed for a few seconds before the words found their way out of my mouth.
“I don’t want to judge. I’ve been there.”
In saying this, I didn’t intend to judge the judge-ers. I just felt someone needed to be the voice for the other side.
The world is not divided into “makers” and “takers.”
I wish the world weren’t divided at all.