White Privilege

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

An essay I wrote recently of what I believe my "whiteness" has effected my life. Of course this essay is completely ironic in its title and its tone.

One of the biggest dilemmas I have been noticing in our country, not only on most cable news stations but on Facebook and other social media platforms is “white privilege.”  Growing up I always thought privilege came from rewards (i.e. performing above average at work, scoring well on a test or exam, doing an honorable deed for someone in need, etc.)  Now it seems to be that privilege is something inherited or something passed down genetically, which to me makes no logical practical sense.  So let me tell you about some facts and figures that most people do not know about me, and in the end I want all my Facebook friends to make the call if I am privileged or not.

When I was around 10 years old, I was diagnosed as being high functioning.  This falls on the upper end of the autism spectrum.  This is also known as Asperger’s syndrome.  When I was younger I cordially did not fit in with my peers that I attended school withand in doing so I had a difficult time making friends.  Being diagnosed with this at an early age I learned that many traits entailed me being socially awkward (where I had a hard time talking and communicating with others) and I preferred to perform certain task on my own rather than in a larger group setting.  I always became anxious and nervous around others, not for the reasons of feeling inferior, but because my interests were somehow different.  This is another aspect of high functioning where one becomes hyper focused, or is passionate about, only one, two, or three different topics.  And it was hard for me to talk to others about different areas that I was not focused on, if something was brought up that I was not mildly interested in, I became aloof and dissatisfied.  This caused me to be standoffish almost to the point where I would “stare off into space” because it was an area that I was unfamiliar with.  Also being high functioning I have difficult time empathizing with others, where it is hard for to me to put myself in another’s persons shoes.  These are all areas that till this day I continue to work on day in and day out to try to make myself a better person in general.  

A second disorder that I was diagnosed with at an earlier age was a speech deficit.  Yes, I used to be and still am a stutterer.  When I was just a kid I refused to talk to many people because I knew that I would slip on my words.  Not only did I stammer, but I would interject with “eers” and “umms” almost to the point where I could not even belt out a single word.  Luckily over the years with many speech pathologist I have learned to control my speech patterns, calm myself down before speaking, and not be so anxious if I ever had to talk in front a group of people or a big crowd.  I want ask a question here, does anybody know what it feels like to always think and prepare what you have to say and how you say something before you actually talk?  I am not just talking about giving a presentation, but even when you engage in just regular chit chat or when you’re “shooting the breeze” that you have think how you are going to  say something.  For a normal person, the words can just roll of their tongue.  But for me, and even till this day, I still have to think and “search” for my words when I communicate with someone.  

Another defect that I was diagnosed with came much later in life.  I found out that in European countries there is a learning deficit known as dysphasia.  But when you travel west, this disorder is uncommon in America and many of our psychologist here within the past 5-10 years have been researching this not new disorder.  In my parents day, this was called “clumsy child syndrome.”  In European countries they found out that this a motor skill deficit affects one’s hand-eye coordination, their mental capacity to learn new skills, and the ability to acquire knowledge (what you learn in school) and apply to real world settings.  Growing up I was never an athletically prone child due to the fact I was always awkward out in the field or on the court.  I could not understand why it would take me such a long time to throw and catch when the other children learned almost instinctively how to throw and catch a ball.  Imagine this, that when you learn something new in school, whether it be some complicated algorithm or reading a passage in Romeo and Juliet, and come the day of the exam, you have studied and prepared for hours, but when the test comes you draw a blank slate in your head.  A lot of people know that I got above average grades in high school and grammar school, but I was never a certified genius.  Some people have told me that math and sciences always came naturally to me, but they didn’t.  I had to read, then re-read, and then read again before those subjects sunk in.  And even when they did, when it came to the test or even a reality-based scenario (as in learning a new skill that I had to perform at a job), I still fumbled, acted clumsy, and managed to make an ass out of myself.

As if these three weren’t enough, over 9 years ago I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.  I spent over 6 weeks at Tinley Park Mental Health Facility cause I did not know how to deal with my life and that I was going nowhere.  Luckily with some good doctors and excellent social workers, I was able to cut down a majority of my medication.  And in all those years I went from taking 4 anti-depressants and anti-psychotics down to one.  

Of course these deficits I have to live with every day of my life.  And over the years having great parents who support me unconditionally that have always been patient and understanding, got me the help that I needed.  I realize that my mother and father have spent some good money on getting me treatments by some very helpful people, and for those reasons alone I love them more than anything.  Also being on this world for 37 years, not have I only accepted that I have all these deficits but I have learned to better myself, through knowledge, sacrifice, discipline, and the will to carry on.  I might have all these problems, but I have to live with  them everyday, and over time it has become easier but I still struggle, and just like everyone else I do have my bad days.  So I do have something to say to all those who claim that I am privileged just because I am a middle-aged white man:

Everyone has their demons they must face.  Everyone has their own obstacles that they must overcome.  Everyone has their own problems, whether it be mental or physical.  And to think that my skin color automatically makes me “privileged” or superior to anyone else, I feel sorry for that person.  I know what it feels like to be pushed around, to be picked on, to be bullied for being different.  To say that due to my skin color that I have not experienced hardships, or being made to feel inferior not just to one person but a whole group of people, I think is unnerving and unsettling.  If anyone says to me that because I am white I was born into this world with a higher standard and have more expenditures handed to me because of my skin color, I just want to tell everyone, walk a mile in my own shoes and it sees what it feels like to live with all these traits. 

June 29, 2020


Submitted: September 21, 2020

© Copyright 2021 mnicorata. All rights reserved.

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Greythereadaholic

As someone who's walked a parallel path, I'll take a shot at explaining why you should extend the same consideration you require of others. Everyone has their own "demons", true, but that doesn't mean we can't help each other when someone is struggling. American history is seeded with moments of brutality towards many marginalized groups, and right now, racism is at the forefront. The point of Black Lives Matter and the protests against police brutality this summer aren't to say that other people don't matter but that Black lives in particular aren't being granted the same basic respect as other US citizens, particularly White people. You can see the same pattern in women's fights for reproductive rights or equal pay, in LGBTQ's fights to love who they love and be who they are, and in autistic people's fights to be treated as human beings with individual thoughts and personalities and not just "shells" waiting for the right therapy to cure them.

Normally, I don't see the point in responding to this sort of thing because personal experience has shown me that people's opinions rarely change. However, I can't in good conscience let an argument stand that being part of one marginalized group allows you to put down another. Like you, I'm autistic, and I've struggled for years with my mental health, especially being female which is a demonstrably lesser acknowledged subset of the autism community. Unlike you, it helps me have compassion for other people and to listen to what they have to say because they're the experts on their own lives, not me. Pitting minorities against each other benefits only the oppressors--after all, there's a reason why "divide and conquer" is a common attack strategy.

Wed, September 23rd, 2020 2:17am

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I can see your viewpoint on this debate. And the reason behind me writing this article was not to spread awareness, it was more of an opinion peace to alleviate certain obstacles that I have gone through my lifetime. And you are right, brutality comes on all fronts, from the oppressors to the oppressed, and the oppressed to the oppressors. I take a look at it as a double edged sword, and it boggles my mind that I see no endgame in the future. The rights of the few will always be looked down upon or even subdued for the matter. I do believe in people standing up for their unalienable rights regardless of their skin color or their background. I believe the point I was trying to make was that everyone of all races, creeds, religions, and backgrounds have the same personal battles we face everyday, and I wouldn't wish to take that fighting spirit away from anyone. We wage battles everyday, and we struggle to get things done, but I am a staunch believer in it is more of a personal individual battle than a social one. Not every person who faces discrimination or persecution has to flock to that group or collective setting in order to rally up his or her own kind just to fight his or her own personal battle, or struggles, or obstacles, or demons. I believe tackling these forces is more of an individual prowess or individual incentive; you do not need to be a part of a larger herd, that the ones that lift you up and steer and motivate yourself is your loved ones. Cause in the end, when we are on our deathbed, and of out all those obstacles that we have conquered, the ones that will be around is going to be our children, spouses, relatives, and family. My heart definitely goes out to those who pummel through the tide, to take the wave head on, but the true aid comes from abiding in your own drive to alleviate that stigma or those labels. My compassion goes out to those who are able to do so on their own accord, on their own merit, and not by any other standards but their own. I have been an outpatient for many years, and the best stories I have heard from those suffering from depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorders, schizo-affective disorders, and even paranoid psychotics, are the ones that worked on themselves internally, that they themselves went out there and made a difference in their own lives. And some of these people did not have caring parents, or a strong support structure, they raced their own races, and wrote their own stories. Then after years, those strong independent people come back to talk and give speeches, and yes, I did listen to their tall tales of making it out in a world where those stigmas and labels followed them wherever they went. They inspired me to become the person I am now, and I would not trade it in for anything. Most of them spoke of doing things on their own volition, respecting their own terms of what they saw out in the world, and they themselves made a difference in their lives and their environment. So yes, my heart does go out to people, and the weight of the current culture climate is not the same I grew up in. I look past those mottos and slogans and creeds and posterboards, and I see a group of individuals who would benefit more if they increased their own self-awareness, self-worth, and self-respect if just given the chance to be accountable of their own lives and their own distinct futures, and not just the future of the whole. That in the end you can be author of your own story, and you decide what the ending will turn out to be. My heart and compassion goes out to those people that do so.

Thu, September 24th, 2020 2:20am

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