I'm white. No amount of time spent teaching in an urban school district or working with a diverse ballet company or with incredible friends from all walks of life will change that. But it has and will continue to change my awareness and acknowledgment of my privilege.
Let me tell you a story.
Last night I went to the beach with one of my best friends. We've known each other since we were five and have basically grown up together. I have generally assumed that our lives and experiences have been similar. He's in the Air Force, college educated, from a traditional family, married with a baby on the way, and a bunch of other things I consider standard for our middle class existences. He's also black. I KNOW this makes our lives a hell of a lot less similar because I have privilege he doesn't but I admittedly FORGET it a lot. He feels like a brother to me in many ways and you expect brothers to be in the same playing field but if I stop to think I know we're not.
Last night we were leaving the beach just as the sun was going down which is technically when the beach closes around here. I pulled off first, leaving my friend sitting in his car checking his phone. As I driving down the access road, I passed a sheriff's car pulling in, probably to chase off any stragglers before it was all the way dark.
I was raised to respect law enforcement and that they were there to help you. But recent atrocities carried out by police have clouded that opinion. When I saw the sheriff pull in last night, he waved to me but I was paralyzed with fear.
This particular beach is in a rural white neighborhood, was this sheriff a racist bastard who was going to think the worst of my friend on sight? I pulled over and texted my friend then waited until he'd pulled out into the main road too before leaving.
My friend laughed at me and said the sheriff didn't even come over to his car let alone give him a hard time. So maybe my fear was irrational and by texting him and waiting I wasn't really helping, but I was so scared. I thought if all the innocent blacks lives we've lost in the past few years, all the names I can't keep track of (but vow to do better at) and it was with horror that I realized it could happen in my backyard to my friend, my brother. And I'm still holding that fear pretty close today.
I hate that fear and I'm so incredibly sorry that there are whole portions of our population that live with that fear all the time. I don't know how but I have to do better, be better, change things for the better.