One — School Lunch.
I can’t speak intelligently about white privilege. I’m not white. I can, however, tell you a thing or two about privilege. I grew up attending a high school where half the kids were white, half the kids were black and most of the kids were poor. I was an exception. At times, my high school reminded me more of a jungle than a place of education. My freshman and sophomore year there were a dozen police officers that patrolled the hallways at any given time, in case a fight broke out. And, they often did. I recall once biting into a slice of pizza and nearly choking as I heard a cracking sound rip through the cafeteria. I spun around and watched in horror as one kid grabbed another kid by the neck and proceeded to slam his face against the lunchroom table over and over again until it was a bloody mess. I think he would have killed him had it not been for a burly cop that tackled the pummeler, laying him out and then cuffing him. Being that 50% of the school was on free or reduced lunch (some of the kids were so poor they’d wear the same clothes until they were ridden with sweat stains and matted down with dirt), I can’t imagine the victim had the money to pay a doctor to piece his face back together again. When my school made the jump to school uniforms in hopes to cut back on the vicious fighting, it wasn’t the poor kids that complained, it was the rich ones because we had enough clothes to wear a different outfit for each day of the week. That’s privilege.
Two — Swimming Pool.
I grew up playing basketball. I eventually went on to play at a small Division II school in Louisville, Kentucky for a year. I was good. Not great. But, I was good. A big reason I was good was because of a black kid by the name of Ty. He lived a few blocks away from me and we’d meet at an outdoor court during the summers and he’d kick my ass. My parents could afford to give me basketball lessons. Ty’s couldn’t. Yet, he proceeded to make a mess of me on that asphalt court under the hot summer sun day in and day out. A lot of people wonder why black kids are better than white kids at basketball. The racists joke it’s because black people have an extra tendon in their calve that makes them jump higher. That’s horse shit. Black kids are better than white kids at basketball because many of them grow up in rougher environments without a mom or a dad and sometimes without knowing where their next meal is going to come from. When you grow up like that, you evolve to be tougher, meaner and more aggressive in athletics. It has nothing to do with genetics. It’s has everything to do with conditioning. White kids play sports for fun. Black kids play sports like they’re going to war. There’s a reason great basketball players like Michael Jordan have sons that don’t end up being 1% the players they ever were. It’s hard to become a killer on the court if you’re learning to play the game in a big air-conditioned gym in a mansion. The world’s greatest artists, athletes, entrepreneurs and creatives became great out of necessity, as a way out. With greatness comes riches and with riches comes rich kids and most of the time rich kids end up being underwhelming at best. I’d like to think I’ll be an exception here (but that could just be my ego talking) because at the end of Ty and I’s one on one games, I went back to a big house and jumped in my swimming pool. Ty didn’t. That’s privilege.
Three — Sweet Dreams.
My summer one on one games with Ty eventually made me good enough and tough enough to start varsity at my high school. During my two years on the varsity squad, I had a teammate named D. He was good. Very good. And, I would often tell him. I had played basketball with some great players. Ernie Duncan, Kendal Brown, Rontray and Dontray Chavis… (if Southern Indiana does anything right it breeds pretty girls and boys that can play basketball). But, of the hoopers I had played with, D. was talented enough to be one of the best. After D. and I played our last basketball game together, I didn’t see him for nearly four years. One day he and I ended up playing in the same pick-up game at a gym on the west side of town. We smiled when we saw each other, gave each other a big hug and played catch-up. His face lit up as he told me about his baby boy. He had just had him. He told me how he was going to be better for that child. He told me he was his whole world. I was proud of him. Four months later, at the young age of 22, D. was shot in the head because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m still alive because I grew up on a different side of town where you could sleep soundly at night without the fear of someone fucking you up. That’s privilege.
Four — Rich Kids.
And I say all this not to hurt you. Though, I must admit it hurt like hell to write. I say this to share with you the reality of the world we live in. I can’t speak intelligently about white privilege. I’m not white. I can, however, tell you about privilege. Many of the people we see on Instagram like to pretend their lives are hard. Rich kids from Ivy league schools like to talk about how they had to “sleep on their mom’s couch” while they built up their enterprise. Pretty white girls with fat asses and enough money to fill their faces with plastic like to bitch to their hundreds of thousands of followers about how “hard it can be having a following”. Wealthy athletes and rap artists who haven’t had to worry about money for three decades like to preach to America’s influential youth about how important it is to live wild and free and to “not give a fuck”. All of that is privilege. I know it’s privilege because I grew up privileged.
And the truth is this — some of the people in this world, for no good reason at all, were born into extremely poor families in extremely dangerous neighborhoods where a hot meal is a luxury. And, as much as I want to look those people in the eyes and tell them it’s going to get better. It’s not always going to. So, if you’re privileged, all that I ask is this. One, don’t take it for granted and certainly don’t waste it. Two, when you can, always, help someone who is less privileged. Three, remind underprivileged kids in your community that they don’t have to become a professional athlete or a rap artist or Instagram influencer to make it big, remind them they can become writers, scientists, teachers, hair-stylists, designers, doctors and lawyers. You don’t have to go out and start a non-profit, you don’t have to go on marches, you don’t have to change the world, you just have to change one person in it. Just once in your lifetime, look for some small way you can help someone who is less fortunate than you are. Because, to be completely candid, if you’re reading this right now you’re privileged too.
By Cole Schafer.
P.S. One day these one-minute writings will be a big book called “One Minute, Please.” Can I let you know when that day comes? You can say yes, here.