I have a confession to make: I’m a middle aged white guy. Appatently, this is supposed to somehow make my life easier, and/or it’s something I should feel guilty for.
Funny thing is, I born this way. I didn’t choose my parents, or my ancestry. In fact, if my mother is to believed (and why would you tell your adult child this?) my folks were actively using contraception when I was conceived. Lucky for me, this was before Roe v. Wade. But I digress.
Being white didn’t seem to automatically confer upon me some magical privileged status. I come from a home where my dad (again one those things I found out after the fact) cheated on my mom for fourteen out of their sixteen years of marriage. How’s that for a role model? Additionally, the older I got the more distant he became. He didn’t have the tools in his toolbox to see past his pain. When he finally left, I told my mom that didn’t feel like anyhting much had changed.
He was a ghost before he was gone.
Being white didn’t make growing up without a meaningful male authority figure any easier. In fact, if anything, it made it harder. I had to navigate puberty, teasing, bullying on my own. Sure, I grew up in the suburbs. My circumstances may have been more physically comfortable, but his leaving made my brother and I latchkey kids. Because my dad left, we effectively lost our mom, too. She had work two, and sometimes three, jobs just to keep us under the same roof.
But it may have been better if we had had more time together. If we had downsized, had moved to new place instead. Forged a new life together instead of trying to hold onto the old. Because it was already gone. My address may have been in the suburbs, but my upbringing was an emotional ghetto. To this day, I may well have attachment issues I’m completely unaware of. In fact, I do indeed have great difficulty making friendships, bonding, expressing my emotions.
To do this day, my relationship with my mom is strained, and with my dad nonexistent.
I don’t know the answer to all of this, but I do know growing up white didn’t give me any special privileges, open any doors, or make my life better in any way that mattered. In fact, I was forced to grow up faster, and I and my family have the price in recent years of a delayed adolescence.
I realize this may not be everyone’s experience, but it was mine–and it was altogether too real. So please don’t tell me that the mere fact of my skin color conferred upon me a better life. I might just laugh in your face if you do.
How about you? Has your skin color made you life any better, or worse? Sound off below.