Privilege

Today as I scrolled through Facebook, I paused on a friend’s post.  She had posted pictures of her wedding dress as well as pictures of her mother, aunt and sister in the same dress.  It was a lovely story of how the dress had been expensive, but her grandfather had bought it for her mother and now, the dress had been used by so many.  She wondered who would wear it next. 

I couldn’t discern what it was that I felt while looking at those pictures.  I had to sit with it and think about it for a while.  Then it came to me.  It’s the same feeling I had when I sat in the back of a pickup baking in the sun as a little girl, waiting to work, while I watched my peers get into air-conditioned cars to go to the pool. 

I felt small again.  I realized it was the feeling I got when I saw privilege at a distance and knew how far I was from it.

Now, I am not saying that I don’t want to see posts like this. I loved it.  I loved looking at the old pictures and seeing the beauty of the treasure of a dress being passed down. It’s actually something that I hope to give my own children and their children.  I hope to one day be able to give them the privilege to have things passed down from one generation to the next.  I may not see it in my lifetime, but it’s no longer about me.  It’s about the lineage that will be here long after me. I am trying to give my own children and their children, privilege.  Isn’t that the American Dream?

I know that even as I sat on the back end of that pickup, I had privileges that many others did not.  I am aware of that.  Just as I am aware of my current privileges that I might add, have been earned, not given.

When I speak of this privilege, it’s not just a privilege of racial differences, although that is a big one. Race does make a difference in the number of hurdles we have to jump to get ahead in life.  But, so does mental health and just plain old lack of wealth. 

I don’t know where my mother’s wedding dress is, and I only remember being with her mother a few times in my life.  My parents were migrant workers so their possessions had to be things that could travel with them. I am sure that a wedding dress was not something that could be carried along to the many work sites. 

They held jobs that were not retirement driven jobs, nor did they know enough about financial wealth to build it. Their life was about meeting the needs of their hungry children now and a roof over their heads.  They did not have the financial means to buy an expensive dress that could be passed down.  They worked for the “White” man who if they were generous, my parents were able to get ahead in some small way.  My father had a generous boss who allowed him to buy a vehicle from him because he didn’t have credit and would not be able to get it from a bank.  His skin color was the wrong color for loans at the time. 

The barriers my parents had to overcome were great.  And yes, it was due to their skin color and no, it was not due to their being illegal immigrants. They were born and raised in south Texas. 

I wonder if at times, they too felt small looking at privilege and how far away they were from it. 

There is a privilege that comes with having a stable home and generations of that where items can be passed down.  Where parent’s leave inheritance and valuable and/or cherished possessions.  These are not things that many in racial and ethnic groups experience. With these same privileges, opportunities are afforded that would not be otherwise granted.  I know this, because I contemplate this for my own children in the future.  I hope to give them what I saw others in my own generation have.  Friends who showed me diamonds that had been passed on from one generation to the next.  That was not something that I could even fathom as my mother wore a mother’s ring that had been given to her after several of my siblings chipped in for it. 

This message is not meant to make anyone feel bad for posting their beautiful pictures of generations past, but I do hope that it’s one that make folks look at their privilege in a different way and offer some insight into the daily lives of others. 

I am no longer that little brown girl sitting in the back end of a pick-up baking in the sun, but that feeling of seeing privilege from a distance can still be pulled up by a mere pull of a string. 

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