I remember the exact moment I realized I was privileged.
I live in an affluent sect of the southside of Chicago primarily populated by Irish, Caucasians, and Catholics. Of course, there are blacks dispersed throughout. On my block growing up, there is a house the block kids and I ironically referred to as “the yellow house.” Multiple generations live in that one house in attempt to better themselves in a safer environment.
Many of the block kids would gather to play various athletic activities in the house next to the yellow house; this was the only property that allowed the inhabitants of the yellow house to join. The other houses’ white picket fences drew a tangible line separating privilege.
I was on my daily visit to my neighbor’s house next to the yellow house when one of the black boys my age, Kevin, bragged about his new puppy and invited me in to see it.
Inside, the house was like mine. The TV playing the Sox game like mine. Empty dishes scattered in the kitchen like mine. Families like mine.
Nonetheless, I felt a guilt protruding deep into my gut that I couldn’t eradicate.
Walking home, I felt anger at why bad things happen to me. I was quite unlucky.
Suddenly, two houses down from mine, a thought appeared in my seven year old mind. I am not unlucky. I am white. My family has money. I go to a private school with hundreds of kids exactly like me. I will never be ostracized based on the tone of my skin.
Kevin will be. His dark pigmentation will always be the first thing people judge him by. No matter his family’s economic success, his worth will be degraded anywhere he goes.
From that moment on, I began to notice more and more racism in my little community.
Two years later I cried in my bed peeking out my window at the Caucasian policeman and fireman beating up a black trespasser almost to death. It went unreported.
Four years later I get invited to a birthday party by a girl at school. I see one of the few black girls crying in the corner. The birthday girl’s father said no blacks were allowed to attend.
Six years later. My father and I are driving through the ghetto. I note on how I feel bad for these innocent people living among destruction. My dad responds, “No, honey, they are not innocent. They did this to themselves.” We fought for the rest of the ride with my vouching for their worth and his denying their dignity.
Fast forward to now. At the restaurant I work at there is often an influx of orders and I have to ask which could go through. “Are they black?” is always the deciding factor.
I am privileged.