Saturday, June 22, 2013

White & Class privilege

I saw this video a week or so ago and it's really stuck with me.

In the intervening weeks, the house remodeling happening in my house has hit full throttle (which means moving from agonizing over decisions to actual people coming in and doing things like altering plumbing, installing wiring, sheet-rocking, white walling, etc.) and I've gotten back to walking my dog.  One of the things that I like about myself is that I'm friendly.  And one of the things I like about where I live is that this friendliness isn't viewed suspiciously.  I make it a point to chat a bit with the plumber, the painters, etc.  I enjoy saying good morning to people on daily walks with the dog, stopping to chat with people along our 2.5 mile route.  I enjoy not being in a hurry and having the time to stop and connect with people.

I should note that I do all of this while wearing shorts that are not in anyway stylish and t-shirts.  Not 'women's t-shirts' but regular old t-shirt t-shirts with crew necks.

So, back to the video.  I've been very aware in the last week or so that the reception I expect from people (and the reception I usually get) is that people will be friendly back, they'll welcome the connection and respond by chatting with me.  I began wondering how would these exact overtures be taken (how would I expect them to be taken) if were not white & middle-aged?

I suspect that if I had a heavy accent and/or dark skin and/or some sort of overt religious garb (excepting, possibly, a nun) that I'd be treated really differently (suspicion, most likely or with perfunctory politeness).  Or, at the very least, I'd expect to be treated differently.

Yes, I am very slow.  But, in my defense, this is all stuff that I've known intellectually.  If someone were to have pointed all this out, I'd have agreed and though it obvious.  But, in this last week, I've felt it.  I've realized that these everyday interactions (which I really enjoy) go smoothly and in a way that I find enjoyable largely because I am white (I imagine that a person of color would have an easier time if they were of a certain economic/social class than if they weren't, but I'm pretty sure that I'm always going to have the clearest path of social ease — so clear and so omnipresent in my life that I never notice it.  This is not something I'd fully appreciated before.or, rather, that I'd fully felt before.

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