Just a heads up, this post doesn’t have a lot to do with my faith walk, but I really believe it has a lot to do with my growth as a person and this sort of enlightenment journey I’m on. (Don’t freak out if that sounds super Buddhist or Hindi to you. I’m not testing waters of other religions, just applying a word because it’s what I mean).
But you’ll need a little bit of backstory for it to make sense:
In the middle of my seventh grade year, 2001, my parents separated and subsequently divorced. My mom had residential custody of my sister and I, and we moved to a city closer to her job. My mom had an office job in another predominantly white, pretty wealthy suburb, so when we moved out that way, about 20 minutes from our first hometown, we took up residence in the neighboring predominantly white, potentially even wealthier, deeply conservative, and definitely smaller city.
In our new hometown, my mom was mostly on her own, and we were not well-off. (My dad never abandoned us, he never missed a child support payment, but as a mother of two kids, I can attest to child support only covering so much). She did a lot to maintain the lifestyle we were used to but it was straining.
Everything was more expensive in towns like our new hometown. The school districts are blue ribbon and the money is old. There’s a local yacht club and kids played sports I’d never even heard of. Volvos and BMW’s were not uncommon… in the student parking lot. I remember entering my brand new middle school and being in awe; it was brand new and it was huge. In hind sight, crazy huge because the district isn’t all that big. A $200k home is considered “affordable.”
This new hometown wasn’t very diverse, and I admit, that’s probably its only similarity to my first hometown, but I do believe there were about four black students in my entire high school, between 9-12th grades. We had a handful of Albanian students, a few students of Arabic descent, and I can’t remember many (if any) Hispanic students. We both affectionately and begrudgingly called it, “The Bubble.” I distinctly remember hearing about how our neighboring cities would have spirit days during their homecoming weeks to dress up like students from our school, which implied preppy attire, and at the time, whatever Abercrombie you could get your hands on.
To compare and contrast, in my first hometown, there was a pocket of wealthy people, but the rest of the city was probably low-middle middle class, if not actually living in poverty. My new hometown had a pocket of middle-class people, and a smaller pocket of people living around the poverty level, but most of the city is wealthy – and has been for a long time. The mindsets of these cities could not be more different economically, despite their similar degrees of diversity.
I lived in this community from 2001-2011, finishing middle school and high school there, and even spending my daughter’s first two years of life there. I moved in with family in 2011, so I didn’t leave bitterly. Not long ago, I visited the city for one of my favorite restaurants back then, and debated whether or not it was a place I’d consider raising my family. “Sure,” I decided, “if I could ever afford it.”
Recently, I joined a Facebook group for the community of people that live there or have lived there. Truthfully, it’s because a few of my high school friends were already in it and talked about the drama that ensued in it. I knew it was a sometimes silly, small-minded town and I wanted to know what was up. I was in for a shocking surprise.
I have never, in my life, been more disappointed in grown adults:
- Racism and hate speech run rampant.
- People complain about the most insignificant things. #firstworldprobz is an understatement.
- Adults call each other names.
- People are slammed if not ousted from the group for having differing opinions.
- Comment threads number in the hundreds of people bickering about who is smarter, wiser, more open minded, more understanding.
- Excuses are made for everything.
- Entitlement is the norm.
- Misinformation and lies are thrown around like confetti.
- No one listens to one another, they just shout like screaming, temper-tantrum toddlers through their keyboards.
A man said something in the forum just a day or two ago to the affect of: “if someone was considering moving her and based their decision on this page, do you think they’d still move here?” There were hundreds of comments but the comment section was already shut down so I didn’t bother reading them, I knew they’d likely gotten out of hand and would only make me more sure of my own decision: NO.
I will never be moving back. I will not raise my children the bubble you call your community. And please, allow me to explain why…
When I was in middle school and high school, I did not fit in. I did not come from money and I was an outsider. I made friends with an outsider, sort of rebel crew of people. None of our parents had lots of money and probably, like my mother, were just grateful to have us in one of the best school districts in our state. For a few years, I didn’t do very well. I lucked out in high school, when I joined the marching band and theater, but I gave up volleyball because I just didn’t fit the mold.
I tried. I know that I did. I wore the shit out of my American Eagle – most of which I bought at garage sales. What new AE I had, I probably bought with my own money, because I had to get a job at 14 if I wanted the extra stuff it took to fit in at that school. I had a fuller body than most girls, and it’s a damn shame it wasn’t appreciated for what it was back then – I looked like a woman at 15 years old. I looked silly, I think, though, because I was too busy trying to dress like the super fit or super skinny girls that we all admired rather than dressing for my body type. I was accepted by the best people in the whole building, and I loved them so much. But I was ridiculed and made to feel inferior by so many others. And I know I’m not the only one.
When you’re different, they make it clear.
“Sure, that’ just high school,” right? Yeah, you could say that. Kids are cruel pretty much anywhere. But as an adult, nearly 10 years later, it’s not just high school. It’s the community. Their parents are in this Facebook group, and they’re exactly the same way with other adults. These children just behave like their parents, this is learned behavior.
I thank God my mom had to work 2-3 jobs when I was a student there so she didn’t feel obligated to be involved more. Because if she’d been treated like I’d been treated, I’d be doubly furious. She busted her ass for us and deserves nothing but respect from anyone, not them looking down their noses at her.
I don’t want close-minded children, and I don’t want to be a close-minded parent.
Anyone who graduated with me, or in the years around me might remember that our student counsel co-presidents consisted of a white girl and a black boy my senior year. I feel like people in a wealthy white community like mine would point to something like that similar to the way people pointed to Barak Obama during his presidency: racism obviously isn’t a thing because, look, our president is black. (please note the sarcasm). My black stu-co president was, I’m pretty sure, also a captain of our football team. He was already pretty popular before the election.
But in the adult world, outside of that one particular situation, a black woman posted in the community Facebook group asking for anyone in the community with a “Black Lives Matter” yard sign to contact her privately – and her character was nearly publicly assassinated for it. The administrators of the group not only participated in her humiliation, but one even started the drama. For reference, the admins are 3 white women who live in the community or neighboring communities.
Her post was subsequently deleted.
She attempted to call them out on it, and was again ripped to shreds by the “community.” I put that in quotes because community is a nice, neighborly sounding word, and they were neither nice, nor neighborly.
And this isn’t the first thing like this to happen if you have a differing opinion that the privileged white majority – of which these people are vastly unaware they have. Previously, just within the last 2 months, an event planned to help raise money or awareness for a woman’s right to abortion access was deleted because “political posts aren’t allowed” (to be clear, I’m pro-life and even I disagree with the decision to take it down. It was a community event and if you disagree, simply don’t attend. I’m just not delusional enough to think that everyone has to agree with my stance on abortion). Another event about educating the public about the Muslim religion was assaulted and subsequently taken down because the comment thread got out of hand, but not because of the ignorance and hate speech – that was largely ignored. Those calling for less censorship within the group in regards to allowing people with differing opinions from the admins to share information and events had their ideas and opinions thrown in their faces by admins in the thread because as they rushed to the defense of a minority group in the community, the lead admin responded, “you wanted an open forum, be careful what you wish for.”
I confess, I have been unaware of my white privilege in the past, too. I agreed, or thought I did, with All Lives Matter (and they do, but BLM doesn’t take away from the value of other lives), and thought people in poorer, minority communities could have similar opportunities to me if only they could or would tap those resources. But it’s not true.
I worked a little with kids in the ghetto in Columbus, OH for a short while, and just the exposure to the children and hearing about their lives, getting to know a few people who lived there, my eyes began to open a little to their hardship and struggle. It’s not as simple or easy to explain as you think it is as 1) a white person and 2) someone who didn’t spend my life living there.
More recently though, I’ve been listening to the current season of the Undisclosed podcast regarding the killing of Freddie Gray. Most of what I thought I knew about that case has been turned on it’s head. A majority of what I thought I knew about policing and police brutality has been flipped upside down. Even what I thought about inner-city living has changed. But the most incredible thing about it, I think, are the Addendums. Between each episode, a panel of people in related fields come together to discuss what information was dropped in the previous episode and to discuss some of the larger issues and implications. It’s been enlightening to hear – because it’s a podcast, all I can do is HEAR. LISTEN.
I can’t speak back. Granted, I could tweet at them, but I’m still listening to the entire episode and hearing them out. You can hear the pain and struggle and anger of people that are in the minority, people that are different from me by race or economic status. And honestly, whether or not I feel that way or think that’s how they should feel, it’s still how they feel! They have feelings and it’s puts faces and assigns real people to these greater issues I’ve been hearing about. It makes me care. My heart breaks and I take back most of what I’ve said or believed in the past, and accept that I have privilege because I’m white, because I lived in places like my hometown, and that I really know nothing of true poverty, true prejudice, or true oppression.
If you live in a predominately white community, if you live in a wealthy community, if you’re a cop, if you’re Blue Lives Matter (me too, one of my close friends is a police officer, and that life matters so much to me) or Black Lives Matter, if you voted for Trump, if you’re a living, breathing human-freaking-being. LISTEN.
Check out Undisclosed on iTunes or Stitcher or wherever if you’re like me and don’t really know someone you can literally just listen to. But shut up and listen.