Saturday, September 19, 2020

A Comment on Privilege

So, I live in an upper middle-class suburb of California. In the 1930s, my town used to be fairly rural, dotted with small ranches and orchards. In the 1950s, developers bought up a lot of the ranch land, clear-cut the orchards, and made a killing building crappy little ranchettes with no architectural features whatsoever. But they were cheap and a haven for white flight. When we first moved here, most of my neighbors were in the trades, plumbers, painters., etc. My house is only 1500 square feet and that is AFTER the previous owner added a bedroom and an additional bathroom. And then the money came and more ranch land was sold and the mcmansions took over. Much of the population of this town is white--probably at least 90% because you have to have money to live here. We bought our ranchette before housing prices went crazy.  Even though I live in a tiny house, it's worth over $1,000,000. Welcome to California.

So, this morning's experience.

I'm not going to call this white privilege because if your local population is white then your argument falls apart. But this is about how privilege manifests itself in my tiny suburban enclave.

There is a trail in my town that is very popular. My husband and I try to walk as much as possible, for both our health and that of our Golden (of course we own a Golden). This path is paved and not much wider than a car. You nearly trip over all the signs recently put up regarding the mandate to wear masks if there is not six feet between you and others. Honestly? The path is narrow enough that you should be wearing a mask period because passing other people puts you in a ditch if you're trying to maintain any sort of distance between you and others passing you.

This beautiful fall morning, we walked this trail for the first time in over a month because of the smoke restrictions. Three women, probably in their early to mid-50s, passed us, gossiping among themselves. They had their masks pushed down around their necklines. They didn't bother to hike up their masks when they passed us, and after they passed us they walked three abreast, hogging the entire width of the trail so that anyone they encountered in the passing direction would have had to immediately scurry off into a ditch to eke out any distance between them and this group of women. I didn't mention that this path is rather curvy. So in addition to possibly infecting me and my husband, they were in danger of infecting anyone who came around the corner as they HOGGED THE ENTIRE TRAIL. THIS is privilege. Selfish, disgusting privilege.

When people show you who they are, believe them.