Talks Chicago, Talks Culture

Privileges and Responsibilities

I love my country

I love the flag

I also love the National Anthem

In fact, anytime I hear the thing I cry. For me these things remind me that I live in a wonderful country with amazing freedoms, privileges and rights. I don’t think there is a time I could ever sit while the anthem is sung or played. I just couldn’t. For me, this is the best country on the face of the earth, bar none. I don’t wish I’d been born anywhere else or desire to live in any other country. I’ve visited other countries and enjoyed them but this, America, is home and always will be.

However

I am not ignorant of the privilege that I experience as a middle aged, white, female carrying a few extra pounds. There might be neighborhoods I would be harassed in, but I doubt it. I’m as non-threatening as they come. People of other races don’t see much more than a “mom” or “teacher” when looking at me. I don’t walk around dripping in jewelry, hairspray, heavy makeup, tattoos, skin tight clothes or mile high shoes (wouldn’t it be a hoot?) My appearance isn’t commented on one way or another–for the most part. I live a very safe and secure existence.

Not so everyone in America today

The first time I experienced White Privilege was while dining out with an African American friend in Phoenix AZ. Our water glasses were empty and our waitress filled everyone’s but hers. Later, as we shopped for sandals the sales woman approached me when my friend was the one who needed assistance. I directed her to my friend who purchased a pair of sandals $100+ in price. Her bank balance was much heftier than mine and yet…she was the one overlooked.

My friend and her husband both grew up in the Eastern part of the country where systemic racism in America was born. I was from California, the Bay Area to be specific, and I’d never really been introduced to the type of racism they lived with their entire lives. He was a former military man, both had graduate degrees and both were employed in the tech industry making nice salaries. We met in church where my friend said “We all be the same in the Spirit”. It was an incredibly educating relationship and to this day if we met it would be like seeing family again.

This couple served in my life to introduce me to the racial disparity that still exists today in America. As our residences have traveled east our education expanded. Our first big outing after moving to Chicago was the Shedd Aquarium. It was Sunday, families of every color were present, though the majority were white. And yet all the ticket takers, cafeteria workers and broom pushers were African American–we couldn’t find one who wasn’t (and we looked!) Bruce and I looked at each other, eyes wide and amazed. It felt like we’d stepped back in time a few decades.

I’ve watched police profile an African American father at a fireworks event while his bi-racial children sat nearby. I know an African American man who was greeted by his new neighbors with a “mooning”… Friends of ours teach their bi-racial 8yr old son things such as proper terms of respect to strangers, particular ways of dress to avoid, so as not to bring on negative assumptions. Things that would never cross my mind if I were raising a son.

I have to confess…my knee jerk reaction to all the hoopla about the NFL was entirely predictable for a white, politically conservative woman.

#1 I couldn’t care less about football

#2 I have a thing about “athletic privilege” that taints all my views on the take a knee issue

#3 As stated above I love the anthem and tear up every time I hear it

#4 In my humble opinion this is the wrong place for this discussion, it’s too divisive in every direction

However

I’ve been reading/listening to various people talk about the issue of taking a knee and I have to confess, I may be a little bit wrong. One discussion pointed out that any time African Americans rally to peacefully protest, white folks disapprove. He cited instances in the 60’s and it made me think. The folks who marched in places like Selma and Memphis were everyday folks who had no other method of affecting meaningful change available to them. You could make the argument that today’s take a knee moment is vastly different except…the white population reaction to it is a mirror image of the one from that era.

Hmmmm

I will hold millionaire athletes responsible though. To simply take a knee is easy. It costs nothing. No money, time, energy, solutions, dialog or meaningful amounts of work are involved in taking a knee. What would happen if some of those dollars were spent where racism is at its worst. If buildings were repaired, people employed, micro businesses begun, skills taught, schools rehabbed and endowments bestowed? What about sponsoring dialog with law enforcement? Gang intervention programs? Better transition programs for inmates? Foster care support? The hard and true facts are that inner cities simply don’t have the financial resources to affect the kind of change so direly needed.

There are endless ways for millionaire athletes to repay the communities that supported their rise to fame and still have a nice pot left over to buy mom a house. And while I support their right to take a knee, it doesn’t earn my respect for them as a collective group. If anything, it serves to confirm my issue with “athletic privilege”.

But

It also doesn’t anger me as it might have at one time. And I won’t cheapen their effort by dismissing it outright.

Is it the best response to a mouthy President?

There’s a loaded question! I think I’ll leave the answer to the history books. Time will tell if taking his verbal bait was worth it.

It certainly got my attention…

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