I am a member of the privileged class.
I am a white male. I am a college-educated professional…a member of the middle class who works a white-collar job with benefits. I am a married with kids…heterosexual and a Protestant Christian. I am a US citizen. This is my reality…my world. And I live and work in a world with folks similar to me.
None of this is my fault. It’s genetics and birth; thus it is luck.
I can give myself some credit for not screwing up the advantages I received at birth, but that is about it. Yes, I did some work and made some good choices. There are those whose terrible choices screwed up the same advantages I have had from birth. But before I pat myself on the back too much, I also must admit my advantages included systems and safety nets that helped keep me on the right path and helped me to succeed.
However, when I think of these advantages I have, it causes me to struggle. I struggle to remember that the world I live in is not the “real world” for most…that our society is anything but equal and just. And if I don’t intentionally look outside my bubble, I fall into the trap that movements like #BlackLivesMatter are really the problem.
Fortunately (or really unfortunately), I don’t have to look hard to see that my world view is not the view for our nation.
Recently though, this reminder that my world view comes from the perspective of privilege happened by accident.
I was doing research on poverty in America. And the things I found reminded me that we still have a long way to go if we are to be a nation where liberty and justice are to be reality for all.
The United States has over 9.8 million children living in poverty. This is over 21% of the children in America. That number is definitely sad and disturbing. But it gets even worse, and indeed points to the fact that we are anything but a fair society.
Statistics don’t lie –
The poverty rate of White children is 12.3%.
The poverty rate of Hispanic children is 31.9%.
The poverty rate of African-American children is 37.1%.
Put simply, if you are born black instead of white, there is a better than 300 percent chance you will enter the world in poverty. As a white person that bothers me, but if I were a person of color, I’d be angry.
And if I were black and discovered that 1in 106 white men were in prison, but that 1 out of 15 black men were incarcerated, and that the greatest factor of conviction and a sentence of jail time is poverty—then I would be mad as hell. (FYI 1 out of 36 Hispanic men are in jail.)
So the odds are simply this: if I am born a person of color, I have a far greater chance of being poor and spending time behind bars.
Now I know I can’t change who I am. I am the demographic I have described. However, I can remember that my privilege provides an opportunity. It provides an opportunity to speak up for those who do not have the same advantages I have had since birth. It gives me the opportunity work to for justice, so that one day Dr. King’s Dream might become an actuality. It affords me the opportunity to remind the world I am in, that while the Edmund Pettus Bridge may have been crossed, the bridge that will transform our nation into an oasis of freedom and justice still stretches before us. And when I hear folks speak the language of hate and intolerance based on ignorance of a world they don’t know and will never experience, I can share what I do know—that as long as some are born in privilege and some with a handicap based on the color of skin pigmentation, we must do better in both word and deed and know that before it is only #all lives matter, that #Hispanic and #Black Lives and #all of those with disenfranchised lives must matter.