My White Privilege


“White Privilege” is one of those terms that seems to have just popped out of no place to become THE subject of the day. So much so that colleges are now “teaching classes” – or is that hammering propaganda? – on the subject and grade school children who are too young to understand the meaning of the word “privilege” are required to write essays on how they have benefitted unjustly because of their “White Privilege.”

I know without a doubt that I have definitely benefitted from “My White Privilege.”

But in the spirit of transparency and full disclosure, I cannot lay a legitimate claim to being “white” by some definitions because my maternal grandfather was a full blooded member of the Seneca Nation.  According to my friends in Oklahoma, that just means that I have been passing for white most of my life; but I diverge.

My White Privilege entitled me to a father whose devotion to God, Country, and Family ruled his life and his family as it still does to this day.

My White Privilege, in the form of my father, gave me a healthy respect for all persons, especially women, children, and my elders—regardless of a person’s economic, social, or ethnic assets.

My White Privilege gave me a loving tyrant of a mother who had the courage to raise five children while moving from foreign land to foreign land and other strange places like Massachusetts and Oklahoma. A marvelous blend of Miss Manners, Dear Abbey, and a hardened corrections officer, she provided the guidance to keep us on the right road, the wisdom and compassion of village priest, and the stern lack of humor for those who dared to transgress. 

My White Privilege enabled me to go out and find a job as a “paper boy,” delivering the Fitchburg Sentinel to homes through a tough Massachusetts winter, earning three cents per paper when I got paid and costing me twelve cents a copy when I did not get paid.

My net profit for that winter averaged about ten dollars a month, and as winter gave way to spring, I blew all that profit and, with the help of a small loan from my father, I bought a Briggs and Stratton gas powered lawn mower at the local Sears and Roebuck store.

And my White Privilege allowed me to haul that mower about a hundred miles that summer, or so it seemed. And as that summer faded into fall, we moved again. And with my massive profits of that summer, I was able to buy a new set of “sneakers” and a new pair of blue jeans for my first day in my new school, half a nation away. I have always wondered what became of that mower.

And my White Privilege, and certain friends who were “passing,” enabled me to find a wide variety of work. I sacked groceries at the local market part time and was able to land a second job pumping gas, after I convinced the owner of the station that I could do that job. And he only had to show me once how to operate the pump. And I got a job as a custodian in my school. While my friends were off to dances and such, I was sweeping classroom floors and scrubbing toilets in all the restrooms.

And building on all that White Privilege (and saving all my various salaries), at the age of sixteen, I was able (with the help of a small loan from my father) to buy my first car–a sixteen-year-old Ford sedan. How appropriate.

And by a fortuitous set of circumstances and timing, I was able to form a “roofing company” with some of my friends. We worked from just before sunrise to just after sunset in the hot Oklahoma sun—typically seven days a week, when work was available.

And at age seventeen, my White Privilege, along with a clean criminal record, allowed me to join the United States Army. Four days following high school graduation, I was on my way to the first of two combat tours in Vietnam.

As I contemplate my journey to this place and time, with a body broken in combat for the principles for which this nation once stood and a deteriorating nervous system from something called “Agent Orange” and other wonderful gifts – too many to mention – I give thanks for My White Privilege.

I was privileged to have parents who held the values and commitment to raise five responsible children, each successful in their own journeys through life; parents who installed a sense of self-reliance, courage, and personal responsibility in each of their children because they had little else to offer.

My White Privilege of having two parents who instilled a strong sense of right and wrong, a strong belief in the value of and the respect for the individual, and passed to each of us kids that unrelenting love of God, Country, Family, and service to this nation has opened so many doors and provided so many opportunities to myself and my siblings.

Somehow, as I reflect on how much My White Privilege has given me in this life, I am unable to feel shame or remorse over all those benefits.

So I won’t.

Nor will I feel the slightest bit of shame for perpetuating to my children that which was provided to me in the form of all My White Privilege.

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