Let’s Talk About White Privilege

I used to have a hard time entering conversations about racial inequality wherein whites are oppressors. I grew up the poor kid in the rich kid school and that school was not
Lily White. I had the great fortune of growing up in a culturally diverse school system. So I made the mistake of thinking my generation was “doing the race thing better”.
I was wrong.
See, I misunderstood Privilege. To me, privilege meant access to places not everyone could go. I didn’t attend the best colleges. I didn’t travel. I didn’t wear designer clothes. I had to work for what I had starting very young.
I thought that helped me understand being a minority. I thought simply because we were the have nots in a very have environment, that meant somehow I was closer to my black and brown friends.
I was pretty damn clueless. This made me defensive and angry whenever anyone suggested I might be part of the ongoing racial problems. Somehow, I was the oppressor and I just refused to swallow that.
Then, I had kids and I started watching other moms to learn from them.
That’s when I saw it. Privilege has nothing to do with what is, and everything to do with what was and what could be.
In all our brokenness as a family when I was young, we never were looked down on as if we somehow deserved our state. In fact, my mom was supported at every turn. She was given two jobs to help care for us. Did she deserve them? Probably, but not because she was white. Did she get them because she was white? Maybe not. But would she have gotten them if she wasn’t? If she was a single mother of six who suddenly needed work after years of “doing nothing” at home with kids and she was black, would she have had two administrative jobs available to her immediately? How about one where she was fully in charge of the money? Probably not.
That’s privilege.
How about those moms I watch? My friends of color raising kids right alongside me. When our babies are out together as teens, doing the stupid stuff kids are apt to do, will my kids fear for their lives if they’re caught? Probably not. Will theirs? You can be sure.
I’ve never had to teach my kids how to behave differently for authority. Sure, I teach them manners and proper behavior, just like my friends of color teach their kids. But I have never told my kids they can’t dress a certain way because it may warrant abuse by authority. I’m sure my friends have.
That’s privilege.
In my town, my white friends worry about the safety of their kids on bikes at night because of busy traffic. My black and brown friends worry that if their kids are out at night, in their own neighborhood, they may be stopped by police because they look suspicious.
My kids never look suspicious. I have never looked suspicious.
That’s privilege.
So what? What now? This isn’t meant to shame or point fingers of illicit guilt. It’s meant to spur thought and action.
I hope we can all agree the stuff that’s going down in Ferguson is unacceptable. For all of us. Mostly because it’s not actually that rare, or surprising. That may be the worst part.
So what do we do about it?
I’m brought back to something a priest said when addressing our responsibilities for all the problems in the world.
Start small.
Have a conversation. A real one that may be horribly uncomfortable but is so, so necessary. Ask questions. I plan to . I don’t know what the heck I can do to be part of the change that is so necessary, but I know I have to be part of it, so I plan to find out how from all those friends of color I keep talking about.
For a long time I was afraid to say this stuff out loud. I lectured my kids about equality and fair treatment. But I was afraid to speak up in front of anyone else, afraid of confrontation, afraid I’d lose friends.
After all, I remember how terrible these facts of privilege made me feel and I was afraid of pushing them on others.
Over the years, I have removed people from my life that outwardly disagree with the way I feel. Currently, If you’re spewing outrage or justification on social media about 50cent cigar theft and looting, you’re probably not in my feed anymore. I’ve quietly removed you. There is no justification for a boy being gunned down and left in the street like road kill. None.
I can’t sit here quiet anymore. This racism is real. It’s old and it’s deep and it’s real. Even if you and I don’t think we’re perpetuating it, we just might be through our tacit silence.
It’s time we stand up with all those black friends we claim to have when we need them.
It’s time us white folks did something.
Quiet nothing is no longer an option.
My kids should be just as cautious about stealing from a convenience store as my neighbors’ kids. Because stealing is wrong. Not because they might get shot for it.

#ScienceSummerFun at Liberty Science Center-Giveaway!

LSCoutsideTypically, the last thing I want to do in the summer is spend time indoors. I made an exception a few weeks ago to take my kids to the Liberty Science Center and it was the smartest decision ever! The kids had been there before, and they had been begging to return for a while as they all had a blast the last time climbing beams in the construction zone or watching the IMAX movie.

This time we started with a Clifford sighting and even though my kids are older, we quickly learned you’re never too old for the Big Red Dog.

We were treated to some special hands-on time during lunch which included a demo of Liquid Nitrogen-always a crowd pleaser!

We were there for a special event, but these types of activities are always offered at Liberty Science Center as part of their education program. I was so impressed with the people who were working these exhibits. Not only are they super-smart science types, they truly understood kids and how to keep them engaged.

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Right now, there is a Rubik’s Cube exhibit which just warmed my little 80′s kid heart. Luckily, it also fascinated each of my kids as well. We spent quite a bit of time learning how to master the cube in all manners!

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The Girl was partial to the “Infection Connection”. I didn’t take pictures there, but I’m sure you can imagine the icky-gooey stuff she learned about!

I’m only touching on a very little bit of what LSC has to offer. We could have stayed there for days! I”m certain we’ll return soon-even on a nice summer day!

Here’s the best news: I have family passes to give away for your own visit to Liberty Science Center! All you have to do is enter your email in the top right box above to receive Reinvention Girl right in your inbox once a week. Then you’ll never miss a contest! If you’re already a subscriber, just leave a comment below to tell me so. I’ll choose a winner early next week so you can still catch some #ScienceSummerFun!

 

Disclosure: I was given free entrance to LSC for my family as part of the Blogger event. All opinions (and rad experiences) are our own. 

Current Events at Family Dinner: How Young is too Young?

FamilyCommunionI remember when I was barely old enough to read digging through a cabinet in my mom’s house and unearthing some newspaper articles about my dad. Turns out, he was fired from his  job in the DC Juvenile Courts because he was kind of a hot head who, it turns out, was pretty fed up with sending young black kids to jail and not doing anything to help them or their families even with promised “rehabilitation”. He decided to share that opinion with anyone who would listen and the superiors didn’t like that very much. I actually think he was allowed to resign instead of getting fired, but it was clear he was being punished for trying to do the right thing. At least that’s how my mom explained it, when I was very young. This conversation spiraled into stories of him working downtown during the race riots in DC and my mom fearing for his life while she sat just a few miles away with a house full of kids. Did I mention these conversations happened when I was very young?

Last night, we sat with my kids around the dinner table talking about their religious education classes. Somehow, that moved into talking about Israel, which of course moved into talking about the conflict there and the powerful spin of media and the rather disgusting tradition of Anti-Semitism this world has and what we can do about it. We also talked about depression in light of the father of their favorite video game heroine dying. Then, this morning, our breakfast conversation included addiction and the Michael Brown madness in Missouri.

My children aren’t out of elementary school yet and in the course of 14 hours we tackled the world’s most heavy topics.

I didn’t sleep much last night and have been uneasy this morning,  because of worry  that I had made a terrible mistake sharing all this with my sweet, innocent babes.

Then I remembered my father’s story and how the knowledge that I came from that kind of man has fueled me in many different arenas in my life. It was never too early to learn that my dad believed every kid deserved equal treatment because we were all the same and he wanted only for them what he would want for his own kid if we ever got in trouble.

It was never too early for me to learn the power of standing up for the truth. It was never too early for my mom to share what she thought of the whole situation then, or about other world issues as they came up. She could have avoided tough topics, like addiction and  Sexual Abuse Scandal(s) of our Church, but she never did. I valued her opinion on most everything and she always shared it, no matter my age.

Sure, I could shelter my kids from the horrors of the world. I often still do. But sometimes, it feels necessary to work it all out over the dinner table, and I can’t lose sleep over that. I refuse to feel guilty for sharing with them examples that may teach them how to live a better life. I refuse to feel bad about teaching them ideals to which I sure would love if they lived up. If they have questions, I will answer them, no matter how uncomfortable it may be or how young they are.

My kids are young, but they are already kind and open-hearted and have all the makings of tiny advocates. Why would I ever get in the way of raising people who someday might change the world?

I didn’t sleep very well last night, but my children did; perhaps dreaming about a better way to do things when they’re in charge.

I hope so.

Adventurer Reinvention

Historically speaking, I hate waterparks. My experience is that they are crowded, hot and never very clean. In addition, my idea of relaxing doesn’t usually involve anything much more active than watching high tide roll in. So, it may seem surprising when I say that we voluntarily spent last weekend in the Poconos as CamelBeach Mountain Water Park and CamelBack Mountain Adventures.

Sure, these don’t seem like places the lady in the red heels might choose to spend her weekend, but I have three little people whose life experience is more important to me than my own hesitations, so when given the opportunity to try out what Camel Back resort had to offer for summer,  we packed up the new wheels and headed for the mountains.

We spent Saturday at CamelBeach and Sunday at Mountain Adventures.

There is so much to say, but I will let the video at the end do most of the talking. I do have to tell you this: CamelBeach changed my mind forever about water parks. The entire experience was amazing, from the moment we were ushered into the parking lot, I was impressed by not just what Camel Back had to offer, but also with the way they offer it. This place has a million attractions that will please every member of your family from young to old and no matter whether you’re riding the lazy river or standing in line for The Titan slide, CamelBeach staff and guests all make you feel like you’d never want to be anywhere else.

CamelBeachWaterParkCollageThe park is clean. The rides are well monitored and run so you can just focus on what a blast they all are,  and it is clear that the park has your family in mind. Kids are encouraged to try it all and there are enough options that every sized kid has something they can love. And of course, I can’t forget the cabanas  that you can rent to use for home base. We loved having a place to keep our stuff and rest our feet in between racing down the Checkered Flag Challenge or getting soaked at Pharaoh’s Phortress.  Our cabana was right outside the Olympic Pool so our kids could swim while mom and dad rested in the shade while we noshed on lunch and perhaps even a cocktail. It is a long day after all!

We had such a great time it was nearly impossible to pull everyone away. Luckily, we had the lure of Hibachi to get the kids moving on!

Chateau ViewsBefore dinner, we checked in at the hotel. The Chateau is right  next to CamelBack so the convenience factor is high. While a bit dated, the hotel is clean and the staff was friendly and accommodating. The outdoor pool is stunning and of course, you can’t beat the view!

We went to dinner at Desaki,a nearby hibachi place with a great partnership with CamelBack.  Like everything else this weekend, family is Desaki’s focus. My kids love hibachi no matter what so I knew we’d be in for a great night. But, the owner of Desaki, told us that he and his wife built a restaurant that they would want to to take their three children to and man, did it show. Not only was the meal entertaining and delicious, but every bit of the experience was catered to our children. There was a clown for face painting and balloon animal making while we waited for a table. In addition, we were told if it ever got really crowded, kids could take the rickshaw for a spin outside or just gaze at the deer that would gather at the feeder on the property. Vincent and his wife thought of everything, including video game stations for impatient kiddoes, that would help make the night enjoyable for the whole family, mom and dad included. We had a fantastic time at Desaki. So much so that none of us can wait to go back again!

DesakiCollageSunday morning we woke to another day of adventure, this time on dry land. At Camel Back Adventure there is a rollercoaster built right into the mountain that you can control yourself! The Middle One enjoyed that enough to ride twice! The two older kids and dad ziplined on the 1000 foot line and they all agreed they’d come back again with me to try the 4000 foot Twin Zip Flyer. There was a park for smaller adventurers that had a rock wall and Euro bungee for kids to practice jumps and flips!

CBACollageAll in all, every minute we spent on CamelBack Mountain, wet and dry, was fantastic! We’ve already started planning our trip back next summer. We’re Pocono fans and water park adventure converts! Not convinced? Check out what the family has to say over taco dinner.

 

Disclosure: We were hosted as guests for the weekend by Camelbeach, including entrance passes to Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark, cabana and lunch. Overnight accomodations provided by the Chateau Resort and Conference Center. Dinner provided by Desaki. Opinions expressed are strictly our own.