Today, I realized I am white privilege in America. And, the problem with that is that I don’t even think I have a problem. I am a “wealthy” white woman, living in a “wealthy” white community with my white husband and our white children. I’ve never considered myself racist, and my kids don’t even really get the whole skin color difference. We have immediate family members that are not white, we have friends that are not white. We have white friends who do not have white children. But, for the most part we live in a really white world. I don’t by choice surround myself with so much whiteness, it’s just how life turned out. And, anyone that knows my heart knows you are welcome in our world no matter your skin color. And, my daughter especially will go to the mat in 2 seconds flat to defend someone she loves who has been a victim of racism. In fact, it’s the only reason I’ve ever had to visit the principal’s office on her account. Sam probably would as well if he even understood it. All that to say, I’ve never given much consideration to the problem of prejudice in our world, because it isn’t a huge factor in the world I live in daily.
Today, I witnessed first hand prejudice in my community. In fact, I was a victim to it. And, I almost ruined my kids’ epic day by beating a lady to a pulp. We had planned to go to Soar Adventure Park for some put-put golf, but when we arrived it was closed until noon. So, we decided to have lunch a little early at Steak-n-Shake just down the street. We arrived at 10:45, which is otherwise known as Senior Citizen lunch hour. So, here I roll into the over 60 crowd with my 5 children. Not literally all 5 children are mine, but they were with me today; and I’d adopt the 3 bonus kids in a second. So, today, they were mine. Granted, I wasn’t dressed to the nines today, and the kids weren’t sporting 3 piece suits. We were all dressed for outdoor adventure with a side of lunch. And, of course, since we were a large group, we got seated smack dab in the middle of the restaurant. No bid deal, these are good kids, and they know how to behave themselves, and we will not disrupt everyone’s lunch. Shortly after we were seated, another older couple was seated adjacent to us. I kept noticing the lady looking over our way and giving me a funny look. I kept looking back, thinking where do I know you from? You must be looking at me because I know you and I should speak. Literally, nothing else crossed my mind as to why she was staring me down. When our food arrived, I noticed she had started giving us a really dirty look. I was perplexed. I promise the kids were not making a peep. They were building the cars from the kids menu and drinking their milkshakes…..
And, then it happened. I’m staring right at her when she says to the man with her. “Look at that mess. Kids of every color and I bet not a one of them has the same father. She can’t work, but she can eat out while we buy her groceries.” I’m here to tell you, thank the good Lord above the kids didn’t hear her say it. And, thank the Lord it was early in the day, and I hadn’t lost all my patience yet. Because, it took every ounce of patience I’ll have all week not to pounce on this woman like a Tiger on a bunny rabbit after he hadn’t eaten in a month. So, I am stewing. Do I walk over to her and say, “B@#$%, I work my ass off to provide for these kids. And, you ain’t paying for my groceries either, or any of these kids’ groceries for that matter. And, yep there are 3 different daddies represented at this table; but there are also 3 different mommas. And, this is no mess. This is community, God’s plan coming together perfectly. For my kids to love their friends so much, regardless of their skin color, social status, religious or political upbringing, to want to spend the last day before school starts with them having an epic day. So, I’m sorry that we aren’t all dressed like we’re the distinguished white people you want to see in this town. And, I’m sorry that it bothers you that one mom has 5 kids in a restaurant by herself. But, don’t assume you know anything about the situation.” Instead, I sat quietly with my precious children. I smiled back with the classic, “Bless your heart” southern smile. And, I gave myself a pep talk during the rest of our lunch reminding myself that lashing out would only ruin the kids’ day, and I didn’t take off work to ruin nobody’s day….
So what if they were all mine. So what if I had kids of different skin colors. So what if I had kids by different fathers. Nope, not my story. But, it is the story of many of God’s dearly loved children. And, when we judge people’s stories and situations, we not only hurt the hearts and spirits of those precious children; we hurt the heart of God. In all my whiteness I sometimes forget we have a prejudice problem today. I think, Oh, we’ve come so far… I often see a bigger prejudice for socio-economic status in our community that I do race. And, I see our poor hispanic friends fall victim to racism far too often. But, today, I was victim of both. Because of the way we were dressed, and because there was one mom with several kids, representing different races; someone assumed we were “a mess”. You know what, God has blessed this hot mess. And, I’d take these 5 kids all day long over your messy attitude.
Let my experience today be a reminder to us all that prejudice and racism are still alive and well in our society today. Not just in inner-city Chicago, or upstate New York. It’s right here in perfect little Franklin, TN. And, when we continue to operate in our perfect little world of whiteness, we become part of the problem. Reach out, love your neighbor, and let the little old lady at Steak and Shake know that there’s nothing wrong with my story or yours, no matter how many you have or what color your children are.