“‘You are 98% privileged.’ The results of my online test were staring back at me like a red blinking light. The results shouldn’t have been a surprise. I’m white, heterosexual, and was raised by two white, heterosexual parents. I’ve never faced poverty and can provide for our five children. My husband and I both have higher education and parents who could afford to pay for that higher education. We are the definition of privilege.
It’s never been more evident than now our society is still in favor of families like mine. That’s just a fact. It’s not my fault I was raised a middle-class white person, but what I do with it is.
Our family went to the beach several weeks ago and my 14-year-old son found newfound freedom on his bike. It was a great place to ride for miles because it was extremely flat and had amazing little neighborhoods. We allowed him the freedom to take off and explore on his own, as long as he took his phone and checked in. One afternoon, he grabbed his wallet and rode to the ice cream shop down the street for some ice cream in private. It gave him a taste of independence while still (hopefully) being safe.
However, when I sent him off and told him to call me when he got there, I realized something. I was worried about his traffic skills, but not worried at all about him riding a bike through neighborhoods. Not at all worried about people thinking he was suspicious or up to no good. Or questioning his motives. Or drilling him at the ice cream shop about paying with cash and where it came from. None of that was a fear for me. Even when he pulled over in a neighborhood and took a break and was on his phone. Nothing concerned me about that at all.
A friend recently shared a story of their 10-year-old son heading out to ride his bike in their cul-de-sac. After returning, they suddenly had police knocking on their door. There were reports of a black man trying to break into a house. Everything matched the description of their 10-year-old son. Turns out, he had knocked on the door of a friend’s house to see if she could come out and play with him. The officers thankfully understood what was happening and apologized profusely before leaving.
My 14-year-old son has a completely different reality. Not only did he ride his bike in peace, but he was also likely greeted with friendly ‘hello’s’ and no doubt would’ve received assistance if he needed help. It’s not our son’s fault this is his reality, but it gives him a responsibility. Responsibility to recognize it, acknowledge it, and educate himself. It should change the way he does things. Change the way he looks at things. It’s going to be tempting for him to read articles and think, ‘I wonder what really happened?’ or ‘I would never do that.’ It’s going to be tempting to listen and agree with stereotypes around him.
I can tell my kids one thing all day long, but the way I really act is what they will pick up on. Maybe one of the most important things for white people to do right now is ask God to reveal our own hidden prejudices and racism? Ask for it to be revealed and acknowledge it. Then… turn away, repent, and do better. I have an immense responsibility to raise my children in such a way they are not the men chasing the jogger in the truck one day. Or the man using his body to squeeze the life out of someone. It’s our responsibility to help him see all sides of the coin and to help him see our reality is not the same for most. My biggest hope and prayer is he grows up so focused on Jesus this is not hard for him to grasp. Because truthfully, that’s everything Jesus embodies. It’s much easier to teach our children to see others through the lens of grace and love when he is looking at others through the lens of Jesus.
If you are 98% privileged like me, wake up. Use your voice for good. Use your privilege for good. We may never understand what others face on a daily basis but just because I don’t understand what it means to be in a wheelchair doesn’t mean I don’t see the need for ramps.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tamra Norman. Follow her on Instagram here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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