When privilege rings

Naming. It’s the thing human’s do. We name to identify. We name to acknowledge ownership. We name something to claim a position, or ourselves and who we are.

This reminds me of the time I’d just come out of a pet store, the large warehouse type. My cart was filled with one forty pound bag of dog food, and the coupon I used barely put a dent in the price. My mood was as grey as the afternoon sky because money was tight again. On occasion, I paid some of my bills on alternate months to stretch our paychecks out. This was one of those months. Building has always been a tough business.

I looked round to find my husband’s truck and saw her. She leaned on a cart filled with her belongings as she drew up next to me. She couldn’t have been much older than me, but her slow shuffle and the dark circles under her eyes told a story much different than mine. We talked for a while. She was looking for a nearby shelter and she was hungry.

At first, I felt awkward. It’s always been moments like those that I’ve felt the confining nature of unjust societal norms. It’s the white version, the diluted side of American social pressures. That’s the moment in which she and I came together. That’s the moment my privilege reared its ugly head and made itself known. Not because some injustice had been forced on me, but because I felt uncomfortable knowing that the woman standing in front of me had great injustices forced on her from the moment she was born. That’s the moment I wanted to beat my privilege with a bat!

Eventually, we said our goodbyes. I gave her the remaining cash in my wallet. I wanted it to be more. I wanted it to come with good fortune and the 400 plus years of advantages and power that have allowed me to walk down many streets without fear, unmolested and unnoticed like a tree in a protected forest.

Just before we parted she said, “My name is Dominique.”

I returned the social grace, and began to wonder just exactly who I was.



© Jan Joe and Born in the year of the dog, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jan Joe and Born in the year of the dog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.