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 broke-ness as a family when I was young, we were never looked down on as if we somehow deserved our economic position. 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 my mother 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 upon my father’s death? How about one where she was fully in charge of the money? Probably not.
That’s privilege.
How about those moms I watch now? My friends of color who 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 they may be stopped by police because they look suspicious-in their own neighborhood.

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 about this. 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.

Navigating a Heavy Heart

Lately, I’ve been galavanting around The country for various work opportunities. I want to write about them all. I want to tell you about fashion, and toys and apps for your finances and your fashion and your toys.
But it’s hard. Not hard in the way that work is always hard, time consuming and tedious, but hard in a perspective kinda way. See, in between all this galavanting, I’m reading news accounts of horrific anti-Semitism that is weighing on my heart and mind. Somehow writing about the week at Catholic camp, where talk of our history shows we’re one degree of separation from Jews yet seemingly doing nothing to curb the global violence, feels wrong.
When I begin to wonder if there isn’t something I could do to use this space to speak up, I check in on Facebook and see friends who have tragically lost loved ones to diseases that need cures and suddenly the latest fall-fashion trend feels a little frivolous.
Let’s not forget, in between work, I’m in school where I am immersed in mental illness and the multicultural inadequacies of our care for those in our systems.
Organic toothpaste review anyone?
I don’t write hard news so to cover these topics feels forced, like I’m not educated enough for it.
I’m also not very funny, so I can’t be the post-9-11 Saturday Night Live and continue doing what I do so people have a place to escape the real world.
I have the great fortune of being able to write about what I think about here on this blog. It is always a privilege and often very fun.
Except when all that I’m thinking about isn’t very fun at all.
I’ll get back to writing soon. I have a lot of cool things to share. I just need to work on how to balance them with all the larger thoughts in my head.

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Tweens at Work: Summer Updates

It has been a crazy summer around here these last few months. First, I must update the The Prodigal Cat has returned. He was looking very well kept and fed so we suspect maybe he had made his home somewhere else and perhaps the guilty party had second thoughts when they saw our signs all over the neighborhood. Needless to say, we’re doing our best to turn him into an indoor cat these days!

CatCabinet2

Another big piece of news is that I haven’t done a load of dishes since June 30th. Let me tell you, it’s delightful. Yep, I finally wised up and put my children to work this summer. Off and on we’ve tried allowances and chores but no system ever seemed to stick and so I’d be back to schlepping their stuff and cleaning up after them all day every day.

This summer we have a new allowance system that is chore dependent but we’ve gone one step further. While there are certain things, like dishes and trash and laundry, that they get their payment for, the payment doesn’t come at all if their rooms aren’t neat and their toys and accessories aren’t put away at the end of the day. So far, it’s been amazing. Not only are they cleaning the kitchen, but every night before bed they’re scanning the house to put all their crap back where it belongs. No more Lego accidents at midnight or tablets plugged into every outlet in my living room. Genius!

See? Ready to Work!

See? Ready to Work!

You would think all this chore activity would give me some free time to blog more, but alas it does not seem to have done that trick. I have a bunch of piece in draft form but they need a bit more research so I’m putting my kids to work on that too. There are some books and apps that I want to recommend to fight summer slag but I figured they would be that much better recommended after my kids gave their input, so this week they’ll be “playing” on the computer at mom’s request. They’re over the moon at the prospect!

There you have it-mid-summer brings all our cats to the yard and my dishes are sparkling clean with  my manicure still in tact!

Not a bad way to send July packing.

 

Saying Goodbye to Our Pet…Maybe?

wendellSeven years ago, after an out-0f-state-move that never came to pass,  we adopted a giant grey cat from a shelter. I chose him because my then 1 year old came with me into the “meeting room” and kept trying to yank the cat by the tail to drag him closer for hugs. The cat did nothing but allow himself to be dragged so I figured he was the perfect pet for 3 small children.

He was.

For over a year he was an indoor cat. He never even attempted to get out except for once where get got so scared he literally clung to the side of our brick home like an ornamental fixture.

Imagine our surprise then when we moved to New Jersey and he started knocking out window screens to get outside. We fought it for a while, but eventually gave in to save our rental property from certain damage! Grifcat

For the last five years he has roamed our neighborhood daily, always returning at night for a meal and a good overnight snuggle in one of four beds. Every now and then he’d disappear for more than one night, but always just long enough to make me nervous before he’d saunter back onto the porch with the swagger of a man who’s eaten two or three dinners.

When we introduced the dog into the house, he was not thrilled. In fact, the dog mostly ignores him but the cat still hates even being in the same room.  He’s managed to stake out new territory that the dog was forbidden from, and the yard was always his for the taking as we walked the pooch to do his business. kidsandcat

Lately, we’ve been training Riggins to play fetch. We let him off leash in our back yard and sometime during the game he always has to relieve himself. He has two spots (sorry grass) that he pick every time so he’s not marking the whole yard, but he has marked some.

And our cat has disappeared.

The timing doesn’t match perfectly, so my theory may be a total miss. We started taking the dog in the yard at the beginning of summer and our cat started staying out a few extra days here and there. But still, he returned for meals and was still sleeping in beds. We just figured he was adjusting again to life with this new family member. After all, he still gets fed and loved on regularly and he wears identifying tags and a collar so a stray he clearly is not.

Yet, here we sit with missing cat posters and broken hearts.

_152Spring09The kids and I have decided he’s moved on to a place where he has free reign and no pesky German Shepherds who always want to play with him. We’re trying to accept that over two weeks gone probably means he isn’t coming back. We’ve all cried and we’ve called and reported to everyone we can think of. We’re trying to say goodbye the only way we know how.

While still checking the yard every morning and night for our friend to return.

It’s some kind of crazy pet limbo. It stinks a lot.