Sunday, November 10, 2019
It was a very long time ago that I saw a promo for the television show The Simpson’s which repelled me. The family was gathered around a Thanksgiving table laden with food. Bart, I think, perhaps, Homer, was saying the grace.
“Dear God, everything that's on this table we put here ourselves, so: thanks for nothing.”
My objection to this was not on religious grounds but rather the complete lack of gratitude for life’s blessings.
I was reminded of this quote as I drove home last night and was listening to a public radio show called Live Wire. The guest was Dina Nayeri, speaking on her experience as an Iranian refugee. She was asked how America has changed since she came here thirty years ago. Ms. Nayeri spoke to the growing anti-refugee climate as follows (and I’m paraphrasing):
The difference is that people have come to believe the blessings and advantages they were born with are something that they innately deserve.
This week I read an online conversation about how privilege plays into the ability of some parents to take a greater role in the redistricting process than others. The compete denial of privilege by some was rather stunning. The line of thinking went like this:
Anyone could do this if they made it a priority. I just work harder. It’s not my fault that those people don’t care enough.
Howard County is home to so many educated people. I find it both heartbreaking and infuriating that our education did not include the truth about how laws and systems have been made and perpetuated to protect wealth, rights, and privilege for whites. We do not feel the trip wires which take down non-whites as they do all the things we do to create better lives. They do not exist for us.
Similar or even more concerted efforts than our own are sabotaged by a culture that centers White success and fears a world where that success might be shared with people different than ourselves. We don’t see the sabotage. We don’t navigate those minefields. We continue, year after year, to benefit from a system that allows our striving to have meaning and to bear fruit.
And then we have the gall to say that we deserve it. That we worked for it and it belongs to us.
It is not that we have not worked. It is that our culture allows our work to move us forward. Our good intentions are greeted with admiration and not suspicion. Our ideas carry weight in public meetings and our children are welcome without inquiry or interrogation. We move through the waters of systemic racism and do not even know we are swimming. It’s just us being us. Isn't that the way it is for everyone?
No. No, it isn’t.
And the sooner we make learning these bitter truths a priority, the better our community will be.