Doors of Privilege

The heartbreak of Ferguson is aching mightily today, and as I scroll through my social media feeds, I am struck by the glaringly obvious point of racial disparity … most of the people interested in what’s going on have dark skin and hair. Most people posting about the tragedy of Michael Brown have suffered at the hands of discrimination at some point in their life. But how do we get people who benefit from white privilege to be interested in what is happening? How do we raise a generation of people who are interested in the suffering of others when they don’t see their own part in the great play? How do we provide our children with a storyline that includes them, even when the plot points do not?

I’ve got a son who looks nothing like me, and I’ve spent most of his childhood assuring well-meaning folk that I am, in fact, not the nanny. When I think of my son’s future as a white male, it is clear that the only way to break the unending cycle of privilege is to remind him from the earliest stages in his life what he is being given. If you look like Darren Wilson, you’re going to catch a lot more breaks than if you look like Michael Brown. It’s my job as a parent to make sure my kid knows it’s his job to help even out the scales. It doesn’t have to be hard, it doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be said. Here’s how we say it in our house.

“In our family, we don’t judge people based on their outsides – not their skin, not their bodies, not their clothing, not their gender, not their choice of mate, not their religion, not anything. But we also must always remember that much of the world judges people for those things, and many people have suffered for the way they appear to others.

People are mistreated because of their skin, and you, my blonde, blue-eyed son, will rarely experience losing out on an opportunity in life because of your looks. You will rarely feel unsafe walking down an urban street. You will rarely have to prove yourself to others who might judge you. You were given a package that, in this day and age, provides you an almost-all-access pass through Life’s doors. It is your job to hold those doors open for those who find them slammed shut. It is your job to remember that your mother is a dark-skinned Jewish Latina, and that while you got the lucky genetic draw, you could have been born looking more like me than your father.

These doors are opened for you by luck, not by any inherent quality of your soul. Remember each day that others suffer … because of how they look, or who they love, or what gods they choose to believe in. Remind yourself that suffering is constant, remind yourself what traits might lead a person to suffer, and stand holding that door open for whomever you can for as long as you possibly can – whether it’s a door of education or employment or money or kindness, hold that door open.”

Eva TaylorEva Taylor lives in the Sonoran Desert with her husband and son. Despite her degree from Yale in anthropology and education, as well as many years of graduate studies, she believes that compulsory schooling is a detriment, not a benefit, to our culture. She travels extensively with her family and invests her time in reading, writing, and all facets of education outside of schools. Join Eva and her husband at their new Facebook page, Everywhere Education, by clicking here.