Chapter 18 Color Blind
One sleepless night this year, as I tossed and turned, thinking about my previously unrecognized white privilege, I imagined what my life would have been like if just one parent had been in a historically undervalued racial group…My life would have followed the “hypo-descent rule,” in which the “inferior” race in my mix would have become my racial assignment.
Instead of nourishing my sense of belonging, my daily life would have planted seeds of insecurity and resentment about my tentative place in a white world.
When my paternal grandparents died, more than likely there would have been little if any inheritance to pass along to future generations.
So, basically, if she had been a person of color, her life would have been more like mine?
At this point in my reading, I am starting to get a little snarky, hearing the author discuss all of the ways her life differs from mine, and putting them all down to color. Poor you, if one of your parents hadn’t been white, you might not have had an inheritance from your grandparents? I only knew one of my grandparents. When my dad died a couple of years ago, my “inheritance” was a teacup, and the bill for his cremation.
That's not a complaint. I love that teacup, and my sister and I split the costs. I just seriously do not understand how "being white" somehow automatically means you get inheritances and acceptance, and am getting really sick of reading how I supposedly have all of these things I have never experienced. There are real issues to address, and the best I can get from a supposed resource is a bunch of pearl-clutching anxiety about how those poor unfortunates might not get any inheritance?
Color-blindness, a philosophy that denies the way lives play out differently along racial lines, actually maintains the very cycle of silence, ignorance, and denial that needs to be broken for racism to be dismantled.
The Study Question
If both of your parents are white, imagine just one of them being a person of color. Rethink your life from birth to the present. How would your race have influenced your experiences and your outcomes?
My dad was a migrant laborer with an 8th grade education, who went into the Navy because “I knew if I didn’t get me a trade, I was going to be doing this the rest of my life.” He got his GED in the service, and once he retired, he went to work in a Navy shipyard doing the same work. If he had been black, I think his trajectory would have been similar.
My mom has been married five times that I know of, has three kids, and in the time that I am familiar with, lived mostly by working when she couldn’t get out of it, and convincing men to give her things. I don’t know how she makes her living now. If she had been black, she’d have been called a Welfare Queen, and probably had a harder time finding enough willing men with money.
Like my Dad, I went into the military and used that as a launch point. While I still don’t “fit in” to the “normal” world, being a veteran at least got me in that door. I am sure race played a role in my career. There are a couple of jobs I’ve had that I might not have got if I had not been white. There are a couple I got and a few I missed out on for which being white was likely a barrier (primarily during the decade I spent in Albuquerque, which was colonized by Spain rather than England, and where the majority population is Hispanic).
My sister was on her own at 14, and my brother was sent away to kid-jail out of state (in earlier ears they’d have called it reform school) in his teens. He’s been shot (by a roommate), lived a lot of years on the fringes (but managed to keep himself out of prison, good on him) before he managed to give up drinking. He now works in the same shipyard my dad used to work in. My teachers assumed that my intelligence would go to waste, because I was just going to end up a welfare mom.
Maybe I am just too obliviously white. It seems to me our lives wouldn’t have been that much different.