How I Learned I Had White Privilege

It was around 1989 0r 1990. Our daughter was in youth sports–a swim club. I was at a parent’s board meeting. We were working on logistics for an upcoming club swim meet. If you don’t have a club swimmer, you may not realize that these meets run from Friday afternoon through Sunday evening. Those are the short ones. Bit meets, nationals, Olympic Trials run 7 to 10 days. But even the short ones, if they are too far away, it may require hotel reservations, transport for kids with different schedules, etc. And crucially, short ones tend to be outside, and require at least one of those blue pop-up tent things–the kind you put lawn chairs and blankets under, because the actual time your kid swims is brief–minutes, maybe twice a day–and bleachers, even if there are any, are hard and hot. Thus, tent awnings. Essential survival items.

Anyway, one of the parents was a respected African-American journalist for a major news organization. Someone said to him, “the tents are in my garage–just swing by and pick them up”. He looked at us as if we had lost our minds. “I’m not going into a white person’s back yard and garage by myself,” His tone was incredulous that anyone would ask.

No one else, at that table would have hesitated. The response, from all of us white people, living in the same neighborhood as he did, would have been “Sure.” Being in someone else’s back yard, or garage, wasn’t anything we’d think about, wasn’t anything to think about, wasn’t anything to cause concern, or caution.

He had to think. He had to have concern. He had to be cautious. He couldn’t “just do it.”

That’s white privilege.

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