I am Privilege.
First off, will you ever spell my name right? Two i’s. Two e’s, please. Man, it’s like we haven’t lived every day of your life together, I swear!
Let me start by telling you something you already know: You can’t un-know me. Before long, you’ll be introducing me to more and more of your friends and colleagues, inviting me to family get-togethers, talking about me to total strangers. It will be awkward at first, to be sure. You’ll probably embarrass both of us more than a few times (maybe even inside this post), but now that I’m out in the open, I won’t go back. Not now that we are finally getting to know each other.
We could probably trace our coming out back to when you read Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime followed almost immediately by Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give.
I remember your daughter caught a glimpse of me as she jumped on the trampoline. She kept asking, “Did this really happen?” while you read aloud the first.
Your watery eyes gave you away before you were two chapters into the second, and I caught you thinking about me, wrapped up in your grief: “This is really happening.”
For the next year and a half, I stood with you as you shared both books, read excerpts at staff meetings, incorporated passages into your presentations, and gave talks about the importance of using texts that disrupt our thinking, that compel us to know better so that we can do better.
These books opened your eyes to my existence, an experience you shared openly with others. The ones you are reading now are doing their job well, too. Aisha Saeed’s Amal Unbound and Rachel Hollis’s Girl, Stop Apologizing? I mean, come on. One puts me in the driver’s seat, gives me a load of cash and all kinds of power, not to mention a face and a name. The other ignores me entirely, which, as you know, is my real bread and butter.
You haven’t always known or even acknowledged I was in the books that you read. Haven’t known or acknowledged my influence on your story as often as I’d like. I was the one who helped to make sure you only needed a job for movie money, after all. I helped you get into college with a scholarship. I make sure you survive every traffic stop (often without even a ticket). I got you that high credit score and low interest rate. I keep you from being harassed at the airport. I could go on and on. At least now you see it. At least now you see me.
So I know this will not be the last time you write about me. I know this is just the beginning. I also know that someone will be uncomfortable with all this. Someone will be embarrassed seeing us in public together, sharing not only our stories, but the ones that stand in stark contrast, the stories that demand to be told.
Tell them anyway.
Your guardian angel,
P.S. Three times to get it right at the end?!?! Really? Two i’s. Two e’s. Geez.