White Fragility

Rule #13: We’re not superstitious, but we are lucky.

Superstitions have never played a major role in my life or Chris’s life. Chris doesn’t have a pair of socks he wears every time the Cardinals play because he wore them one time the Cardinals won a World Series. I don’t throw salt over my shoulder after spilling it. And growing up, I had my fair share of black cats. We do, however, avoid stepping on sewer covers and anything on the walkway that is not permanent. We learned our lesson a few years ago when Chris stepped on a manhole cover and fell right down into the hole!

As non-superstitious as we are, we do believe in luck and privilege. I also believe in “God things.” I believe that if we are open to God and following a path of love, you never know what’s in store (as in, you might have 3 kids overnight). But I also think that – at least in my life – a little luck, my environment, and privilege has opened up doors and led me to where I am today.

A little luck goes a long way.

So where am I? I live in the St. Louis region in a good-size home. I have a large network of support from family and friends, coworkers, and our home church. My job offers flexible, full-time hours. And Chris and I (usually) have two working vehicles. 

I am where I am today for a lot of reasons. I’ve been lucky that disaster has never struck me. When I’ve been low on finances, I’ve had family members who were always willing to help. My family has always taught me that love comes first and that all people are human beings. I’ve had access to good education. My parents were sure that my sister and I grew up in an environment that would open up our eyes to the larger world around us. Plus, I have privilege in our society because I am a white, middle-class female.

This matters more than I care to admit. But the hardest part is, now that I’m a white mother to three black girls, I know that they do not experience the same type of privileges that I do. 

Listening to people of color.

Again, it’s difficult to admit and difficult to hear and difficult, at times, to discuss. But race does matter. I can recall having a conversation with two previous coworkers who are close to my age: both female, one black, the other white. We had just left a book club meeting where we discussed The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. (If you haven’t read it, take the time to do so. It’s an important read. Here’s an excerpt from the book.)

After the book club meeting, the three of us continued discussing race and how we identify as females. My white co-worker and I admitted that we are always female first and then white, because we don’t often have to think about our skin color. We have never had to prove our value because of our skin color. We have, however, had to prove our worth because we are female.

But my coworker who is black did not identify this way. She said that she is black first – in every circumstance – and then female.

I heard this statement years before the girls came home with us. And it has stuck with me. I’m thankful that I have friends and coworkers of color who have been more than willing to talk about their experiences as persons of color. I need to hear this. We need to hear this. We all need to be aware that race matters and does make a difference in our society.

Sharing our luck and privilege with others.

I hope and pray every day that our society continues to evolve, that we move forward instead of backward, and that we open up our hearts to people who are not like us and who do not have the same life experiences as we do. Perhaps those of us with privilege can extend our privilege to others. Maybe those of us who are lucky can give some of our luck to others. Perhaps we all can show love to one another. And maybe one day my girls and all persons of color will not be (mis)judged because of the color of their skin.

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