I grew up in Paterson, NJ. My mother, after her separation from my stepfather, decided she wanted me to grow up outside of the walls of my whiteness. She wanted me to experience life through not just my eyes, but the eyes of others from different backgrounds. She moved us into a loft in downtown Paterson, a place where I felt safe because of the community I lived around. I never walked home alone; a business owner would make sure someone walked me home. I never felt unsafe; I learned to ride my bike in a parking lot of our city hall, and later used that bike to explore the Great Falls.
I went to school with various races and had friends from different backgrounds. I was aware of the injustices my black friends faced because it was discussed. I have been aware of my white privilege since I was a child. I volunteered with Americorps before I started college to work in the school near the Paterson projects in an after school literacy program. It’s not enough to support black lives. We have to speak up and do the work. Protesting ends. Riots end. We got about our daily lives. Legislation, alliances and speaking out against injustice all the time is what works.
We have to do better. Be aware of your privilege. Generational poverty (more on that here) affects millions of Americans. Those Americans are born into a system that focuses on immediate needs and not long term planning. Having access to resources is a privilege. Having family teach you about financial planning and balancing a checkbook is privilege.
Being white is a privilege. Never forget that your skin color has opened doors for you. It’s time to open doors for others. Now.