Last week I was sitting in an almost empty cafe in Sweden having finished my lunch just sitting here thinking about my privilege. This is what came up for me.
I was born in San Antonio and went to a Catholic private school for most of elementary. Many of the girls would not play with me because my mom had been a teen mom along with my parent’s being divorced. In fact, my first year there, my seat mate informed me that she was only allowed to talk to me during class and not outside. My last year there the teacher hated me, as did her daughter in the class. She even had a birthday party where she invited every single girl in the class except for me.
My schooling included moving around every 3 years and creating whole new experiences in a Dallas suburb, Los Angeles, the Dallas suburb again, then Austin and San Marcus for college. Each time I had to again prove myself. Most of my friends typically were minorities and the quirky kids simply because they were typically the most welcoming of the new kid. Normally I worked my way up the hierarchy to befriending the popular kids as well, but never used that to diss my friends that had accepted me first.
While in LA, in eighth grade I recall chewing out one of my Jewish best friends for saying prejudice things about hispanics. I have never tolerated individuals treating others like this and never understood how others can stand by seeing things like this. Even to this day, my norm is to step up for those seen as the underdog.
This stepping up for the underdog increased even more soon after having my son. While he was born healthy, he developed very serious health issues at three months of age that eventually led to his death just shy of 14 months. Many people were afraid of him because he had a feeding tube, tracheostomy, and did not function like a child should at his numeric age. I became his strongest advocate and that extended to anyone else with health issues and any handicaps.
When I see people with darker skin, my reaction is a teeny bit of envy because they can go out into the sun without spontaneously combusting. I literally come in two colors – red (sunburned) or white (glow in the dark). I never make assumptions about their background or what they identify themselves as. There have been too many people I have met along the way that you can’t tell by looking at them and, personally, I have had WAY too many inaccurate assumptions made about myself through the years. Instead, I allow them to tell me the story of their lives when they are ready.
While I am naturally rather shy, it is rare for me to feel uncomfortable, fearful, or afraid around minorities and more specifically, minority males. My personal experience has been that white males have typically been more apt to be distress causing in my life as they have been more apt to ignore my no.
Dropping My Privilege & Seeing Through The Eyes of Fear
Yesterday I was on a tram that ended up going well out of town. There were a bunch of teen males that hopped on together that were black & Middle Eastern. For a bit I did something I haven’t done before with curiosity. I dropped my personal privilege and felt fully being a white woman in a foreign country unable to speak the language surrounded by male minorities. Instead of doing my norm of looking for similarities, I focused on differences.
They were doing nothing any other teen males do the world over. One kept his face mostly covered with a scarf. They were joking back & forth. The one that sat beside me was quite respectful of my space. When they got off on separate stops, they gave each other a hug & a cheek kiss. You could tell they all cared about one another.
It was difficult for me to stay in this space for long as I naturally look for similarities between myself and others without even thinking about it. During the ride, even with trying to hold that separation, it was naturally melting. One was wearing a ring that I wanted to complement.
I feel for people who live with this separation throughout their lives. It felt horrid and toxic every moment and I probably held it for around 20 minutes max. I noticed how within this feeling I showed much more judgement to my surroundings as well. Just looking around outside the tram, I was assuming areas were poorer and more unsafe. The funny part was I had gotten on the wrong tram and ended up outside of town. When looking out the window I saw some small buildings that were sheds or green houses. I made an instant assumption that people were using these to live in for the time being while I was still in this mindset.
After exiting the tram and waiting for another to go back into town, there was a woman who was drunk and acting silly with people she knew and I was fully avoiding being anywhere close to her or them. Normally these are people I appreciate and find a bit silly.
Back to the Café
While writing this all down, all of the sudden 2 men sitting nearby start talking about Trump in Swedish. I am able to understand some of the conversation with the little knowledge I have of Norwegian as the languages are incredibly similar. One says he has family that live in Tulsa and was voicing his concerns.
It is still astounding to me how limited the knowledge of most Americans is about the rest of the world in comparison to what the world knows about one another & especially about America. Watching nationalism and hatred of those different from oneself on the rise all over the world scares the heck out of me. We all really want the same things – to be loved, accepted, to be approved of exactly for who we are and how we are, gorgeous relationships in our lives, and opportunities to succeed.
I am a people watcher. When I look at others I love the way they move, what they choose to wear, the way they emote, the way they interact in the world. I am curious what their specific gift to the world is, as each and every one of us has, at minimum, one. Is it a light gift or a shadow gift that is to assist others in waking up? My curiosity also extends to how we are similar as I know underneath it all, we are all much more similar than different.