If you’ve never…

Sunday is my long run day. As I am working up to run a half marathon, I add a mile each week. Today was nine miles. It’s not uncommon for a lot of reflection to take place on these runs, and today was no exception. 

This weekend, I posted a quote from my friend Phil Steiner, also a runner. In response to the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, Phil said, “In the thousands of miles I have run in my life,96358477_10157248168247467_6244917177489555456_n I have never feared for my life because of my color. This is privilege.” I referred to Phil’s words with an observation of my own that this week many had finally come to understand what privilege is.

Before I hit the pavement, I noticed someone commented on the post saying, “I disagree completely. He was ambushed by psychopaths not privileged individuals.” 

That misses the point entirely. Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that Gregory and Travis McMichael are absolutely privileged individuals (I mean, if the ability to shoot a black jogger down and then go home for three months as if nothing happened isn’t privilege, I don’t know what is. But that’s another story.). As I wound my way around the streets of downtown San Antonio, I could not help but wonder how my friend could think these two men were not privileged.

My friend’s reaction made me wonder if many of those who deny privilege is a reality equate the term with material wealth. While that could be one possible meaning, and a very revealing one if that’s the first place your mind goes, in the context of these conversations, it means something else entirely. My musings led me to compile a list of “if you’ve never’s”:

If you’ve never been denied access to a business or other facility because of the color of your skin…

If you’ve never had to consider the fact that, in your recent ancestry, your family had to enter a movie theater from a back door…

If you’ve never had to consider the fact that, in your recent ancestry, your family had separate public bathroom facilities…

If you’ve never had to consider the fact that, in your recent ancestry, your family had to eat in designated areas of a restaurant, if they were even allowed to eat there at all…

If you’ve never had to consider the fact that, in your recent ancestry, your family had to sit in the rear seats of public transportation…

If you’ve never had to consider the fact that, in your recent ancestry, your family had to be in “their part of town” after dark…

If you’ve never had to consider the fact that, in your recent ancestry, your family may not have been allowed in certain parts of town at all…

If you’ve never had to consider the fact that the earliest members of your family tree were considered property…

If you’ve never had to consider the fact that your ancestors were legally considered less than human…

If you’ve never had to consider the fact that your ancestors were granted, after vigorous debate by our government, 3/5 humanity…

If you’ve never had to consider the fact that your ancestors were granted, again only after vigorous debate by our government, the right to vote long after they were living in our nation…

If you never had to consider the fact that your religious denomination once officially believed that you had no soul…

If you’ve never had to consider the fact that you might be chased down and shot while jogging…

If you’ve never had to have a conversation with your five-year-old child that he will be treated differently because of the color of his skin…

If you’ve never had to consider any of the above statements as a reality in your life, then you, my friend, are privileged.

But wait. It isn’t the end of the story.

Being privileged is not an indictment of your character. What is telling about the kind of person you are is what you choose to do with that privilege. Make no mistake. No one is suggesting you feel guilty or ashamed. We don’t need anyone pitying anyone else.

What we need are people to acknowledge their station in humanity and take action to right what has been wrong for generations. Agreeing on what is undeniable is the first and best thing you can do. 

Let our black brothers and sisters know you are with them and for them. Let them know you will advocate for them, stand with them, listen to them, grieve with them, and hold space for them.

Let them know you will love them.

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