Privilege Colored Glasses
When we were around ten years old we moved from our small mountain home town to the big city. My mom found herself a single mother again with 3 kids to take care of while working full time. That meant of course daycare was a necessity. The first daycare we went to was called People's Palace, I think, what I remember most is the nickname we gave it, Bullie's Castle. My brother and I were two thirds of the entire white population of the place. We were absolutely singled out for being the minority. This would mostly be the case all the way through high school. I've met people with similar experiences that use it as evidence of "reverse racism", that because they were treated poorly because of their skin color it means we're all equally shitty and POC need to stop playing the race card...
I did not interpret my experiences that way. I credit my mom for that. I'm not sure I recall any specific conversations or words of wisdom, but she did explain that, even if things felt bad for us then, we had an advantage because of our skin color. I did not internalize the bullying I experienced at Bullie's Castle. A couple years and a move later in third grade I encountered different bullying. A pair of white kids singled me out for being short. To this day I have a bit of a complex about my height...it just didn't make any sense. Why were they mad at me for something I had no control over? They weren't even that much taller than me...I'm getting upset and confused just thinking about it. It was so illogical and so pointless. It accomplished nothing, but did get so bad that I pointed the pair out to my mom at a science fair, I don't know what she said to them, but they never bothered me again. Although I continued to be ribbed by various jerks for my height throughout the years knowing my mom had my back made it more bearable.
A couple years later it was for wearing glasses, and then for being a teacher's pet and then in high school for being in band, and an artist, and goth, and being less than masculine. Never after Bullie's Castle though was I picked on for the color of my skin. That's significant, because in high school there were people, hell, even people I called friends judging people by their skin, but I was free of that. There's a couple lessons for me here. First, it didn't take long for me to realize it doesn't matter what you do to try and fit in there will always be someone who sees your confidence as a threat and will try to tear you down. Second, there is no easy way to square that against something you can't change.
I'm incredibly privileged. White, straight, cis-gendered male. If I wasn't up to being entirely beat down I always knew I had the option to wear some boots to seem taller, not wear make-up, wear pants instead of a kilt...I have always had an out. You can't easily hide having darker skin, being a woman, being gay...not without great effort and pain. Ultimately, I'm simply a little weird, and I very much want to be able to express myself without fear and ridicul. My experience at Bullie's Castle and through school has instilled a desire to fight for others to experience expressing themselves with the same freedom I have.
In high school I remember a couple of my "friends" did the most annoying thing: just for the fun of it they would punch each other's shoulders. Not as hard as possible, but not a simple tap either. I was much smaller and weaker than most everyone so even a light punch was usually quite painful. EVERY time I would protest "hey that hurt, please don't hit me" there response was "I didn't hit you that hard". So? That wasn't what I said. I didn't ask you to hit me less hard. And for any number of factors it hurt regardless of your best intentions. We cannot ever know specifically what any other person feels. So when someone says something hurts or is upsetting to them, why is it necessary to argue you didn't intend to? We can only ever deal with the consequences of our actions, not our theories or hopes about their effects.
What's my point? My life is easy. Made easier because of factors out of my control that I did not choose. My experience on the other side of that coin means I don't wish that for anyone. Life is hard enough, people are mean enough without things you have no control over dictating how you're treated. I hope that I can use my privilege and experience to teach that lesson to people who share my privilege but maybe not those experiences.