White Male Privilege

Many will look at me and see a white male.  From that single observation they will place me in a category of “white, male privilege.”  In doing so, they assume to know all about me, and they conclude that they do not approve of me or my lifestyle.  I thought about this when I was mowing the other day.  I do a lot of thinking when I mow.  I enjoy it, and I enjoy these conversations with the Lord.  I want to address these labels by telling you a little about myself.
Yes, I am placed in the category labeled “caucasian” on all the forms I have been required to fill out.  Growing up, I never thought that that designation made me special or privileged.  My family never taught me that, especially my mother.  So, let me tell you about my family and my “white” designation.  My grandparents were Syrian. They accepted Jesus and were known as devout Christians in a small village in Syria.  My mother, aunts, and uncle were all born in Syria, a place that is not that pleasant.  When my mother was a young girl, my grandfather decided to leave Syria and come to America.  My brothers, sisters, and I are part of the first generation to be born in the United States of America.  That truth sometimes boggles my mind because I was one generation from being born in a country that is torn by war.  My grandfather went through all the steps to become a naturalized citizen and worked hard to provide for my family.  Mom never finished school because she had to work.  So, when people look at me and call me “white,” they only see the surface.  The do not see my heritage or the truth.  Plus, I had nothing to do with my being “white.”  All of that was in God’s hands.
Next, I am male.  I do not have much to say about this because, once again, I had nothing to do with that.  God formed me before I was even a thought in my parents’ minds.  Now, I am the baby of my family, and I have been told my brothers and sisters that I was spoiled.  If that is so, it was their fault and not mine!  That might have given me special privileges, but never did my mother raise me to think that because I was male that I was ever better than anyone else.  I cannot ever remember having a conversation with my brothers about our male privilege.  Enough on that subject.
Finally, the big topic: privilege.  I have been labeled as one who is privileged and, as such, should feel ashamed of myself.  Let me tell you about that privilege.  My family “escaped” Syria before it became deadly.  They had no one waiting for them here.  They could not enter this country immediately so they had to go to Cuba first and wait.  There my mother had to work, as did all in the family.  Eventually, they were allowed to travel to Ellis Island and enter this country.  My family’s name is recorded at Ellis Island. Is that privilege?
My mother’s first marriage was an arranged marriage.  She had three children, two daughters and a son.  Her husband was not a nice person to put it mildly.  He treated her so badly that her brother, my uncle, rescued her from that marriage.  Later, she married my father, a career Army man.  From that marriage came my brother, my sister, and me.  Dad was not the best husband either.  I saw him beat my mother.  He drank and wasted money.  My mother, who did not have an education, took whatever job she could find so she would have some spending money for herself and for us.  When I entered high school, my father left us.  Mom had to raise us on her own.  She woke early every morning to run a day care at a local church.  She could not drive so she walked every day in every type of weather.  Then, we learned she had cancer.  She never divorced my father and never said a bad word about him.  She was getting treated at the local military base until one day she learned that my father had gotten a divorce and remarried.  She no longer qualified for base privileges.  As the cancer worsened, the church dismissed her.  I was in college at this time.  I remember once writing home asking Mom for some spending money.  Yes, I know now how selfish that was.  Mom sent me $20 with a note apologizing for not being able to send more.  That note broke my heart.  (Cancer eventually took her life.)  Is that privilege?
After that, I worked on campus as I went to school.  I worked at night as a janitor for an insurance company.  I kept that job until I was fired.  They had shag carpeting that had to be raked every night.  It never dawned on me to close the door and rake the small area behind the door, so they fired me.  I worked for the landscaping crew, planting sod and watering plants and hoeing weeds in 100+ degree weather.  I froze in the winter as we tended the grounds.  Then, I moved to the trucking service where I was the only “long-hair” on the crew of “red-necks.”  Note, these are not derogatory names as that is what we called ourselves.  I was ridiculed and ostracized.  The others rode in the cab; I rode in the back of the truck.  Next, I worked in the soil testing lab.  I put on a a mask and ground soil samples all day.
Oh, one more thing.  I messed around a great deal in college.  I lost all my scholarships and was told not to return to campus for at lease a year.  In other words, I got kicked out of college. I worked at these jobs for that year  because I knew if I ever left campus, I probably would not return.  When I returned to school, my advisor told me that he did not think I would ever make a teacher so I was wasting my time.  Is that privilege?
Yes, it was.  I am privileged.  I am privileged to have had a grandfather and grandmother who saw the truth in Jesus Christ and passed that truth on to their children.  I am privileged that they sacrificed and left all they knew to come to this nation.  I am privileged that I was raised to love this country and to honor those around me.  I am privileged to have been taught the value of hard work.  I am privileged to have had a mother who loved Jesus and passed that love on to us.  I am privileged that she never, ever raised us with the notion that I had half-brothers or half-sisters.  No, I have brothers and sisters.  Period.  I am privileged to have had a mother who demonstrated what sacrificial love truly was.  I am privileged to have been raised with brothers and sisters who loved me, helped raise me, and love me still.  I am privileged that I had to work my way through college so I could learn responsibility.  I am privileged that I failed so that I could learn not to give up. I am privileged that my wife and I had to struggle financially so we would learn to depend upon Jesus.  I am privileged to have been able to work at the same teaching job for 41 years. Most importantly, I am privileged to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
Yes, I am white.  Yes, I am a male.  Yes, I am privileged.

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