When Privilege Doesn’t Prevail

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Muhammad Muzamil on Unsplash

I have a huge problem — I wasn’t born white enough.

Not on the outside. And as far as I can tell, not on the inner, either.

On the interior, it’s all 2PAC’s Greatest Hits, Juice, and Juicy.

If you know, you know.

On the outside, I appear so Latino that full-blooded Puerto-Ricans, Mexicans, and even Columbians look at me and think, maybe?

Wonderful people of all major eighteen plus countries and territories where Spanish is the first language of, have come up to me on the street and asked “hablas Espanol?”. That’s how not white enough I am.

To their disappointment and sometimes befuddlement, I’ve always had to reply I do not speak Spanish, in English or worse — broken Spanish. I’m just a part Irish, part Native American who tans easily and really enjoys Taco Bell.

That and being able to understand what I’m being asked, when I’m asked if I speak Spanish, in Spanish — is about where my official Latino ties start and end.

Unless you count having friends named Juan and Julio as “having Latino ties”. In which case, I have two more ties to the Latino community, off the top of my head.

Now that I think about it, the police probably consider having friends named Juan and Julio as having Latino ties. If the police ask, I was never here — and I definitely don’t have friends name Juan or Julio (sorry amigos).

Because the police always assume I not only have Latino ties, they also often seem to have a problem with it. They seem to presume I’m a full-blooded criminal. At least that’s how they treat me.

However, It’s possible they wrongly presume I’m instead a full-blooded Latino, with criminal ties. All of the above presumptions are wrong though, as presumptions so often are.

A cop once stopped my white female cousin and I, one night when we were drunk, underage and stumbly. They were right for doing so I suppose. But one of the cops wrongly assumed both, my cousin and I were not family, but instead a couple — and that I wasn’t white.

This seemed to bother the white male cop far more than how visibly intoxicated both my cousin and I were. He thought he saw a nonwhite male, stumbling up the street drunk with a young pretty white girl, assumed the worst and stopped us.

He straight up asked her, in plain English, why she “didn’t find a nice white guy to date?”.

Just wow. That is all.

It wasn’t until my cousin corrected him on both of his wrong presumptions; us being a couple and me being of Latino descent, that he eased up.

We were both so offended and taken back by his wildly racist and wrongly presumptuous question, as well as focused on walking away from this incident, not in handcuffs, neither of us said anything remotely close to what we should have.

The officer took one good look at me, then a closer one at us, and decided we were not privilege worthy.

Only after we convinced him I was at least partially white, we were definitely related, and not a couple — were our “privileges” restored.

After the shocked look on his partner’s face probably suggested the offensive question he asked my cousin would not play very well in court, we were let go with a warning.

So I understand what white privilege is and know whole-heartedly it exists. I get it. All I’m saying is, I don’t get a whole lot of it. That happened in 2002. It’s been primarily a privilege-less road for me since and that’s more than fair, until someone wrongly assumes otherwise anyway. Until it’s presumed the pigment of my skin has afforded me a privileged path, in which it hasn’t.

While they’re there to speak of, any privileges I was afforded in my past were not only few and far between, but they were also the knock off, bootleg brand of them that’s sold on inner-city street corners out of vans.

My white privileges were too urban looking for the country club’s liking, they never let me join in on any Anglo-Saxon like games.

Good. Who the fuck wants to play tennis or golf with a bunch of old white people anyway?

The night my cousin and I were so kindly let go with a warning, the nonprivilege was in being stopped in the first place. The privilege, in being let go. A privilege too many don’t get. One I’m rarely offered myself.

In 2008, I was harassed by two cops for wearing a Randy Moss jersey, all the way from my alley to the district, in the back of a cop car, handcuffed for something I didn’t do, before ultimately being charged with something I did.

They kept referring to the money I had from the unemployment check I cashed earlier that day, as drug money. The only way it would have been able to be called drug money is if they hadn’t locked me up and kept me in a cell for 27 hours, so I was free for the night to buy drugs with it.

Then it would’ve been drug money. It just would’ve been my drug dealer’s drug money, not mine.

But Officer Buzzkill and his hatred for Randy Moss went and fucked that plan up when he stopped me to inform me I fit the description of blah blah blah.

I was cleared by the person who called them, moments later but not before the officers found a petty misdemeanor amount of drugs on me and took me in.

My skin color and previously clean record didn’t stop those cops from treating me like a hardened criminal. I had just months earlier lost my job, the woman I loved and the apartment we lived in as a result— and now this. I felt anything but privileged.

As I sat in my eight by eight holding cell with four other grown men, and quietly decided whether to eat the crusty looking, sweaty cheese sandwich the officers so provided me with, or use it as a makeshift pillow — I both saw and felt no white privilege. There was none in sight.

I didn’t see any in the drunk and overweight white kid the cops beat the shit out of right there in front of everyone for underage drinking, either.

I mean sure, underage drinking is a “crime” I guess — but didn’t those cops notice the kid they were pummeling was white? He was so white, and the kicks just kept comin’.

Where was the privilege in all of it? Were these pre-privilege times? Post privilege, perhaps?

Chad probably didn’t get ass whoopings like that at home, that’s for sure.

But I imagine the kid probably needed a drink by the time those cops were done protecting and serving him all across his backside. Oh, the irony.

Speaking of ass whoopings, the last time I really had one dished out to me, I was taken to the same hospital I was born at, to have my injuries treated since I was bleeding profusely from my head and nose.

They gave me a pain pill and a gurney to bleed on, before rolling me into a hallway with my face still covered in dry blood from the fight. That hallway was where I remained for a majority of my stay until it was time for them to send me on my way, shortly thereafter.

I guess I didn’t appear white enough to the white doctors and nurses on duty at the time, to deserve a room or face that wasn’t covered in blood. Did I say white enough? I meant insured enough. My mistake.

I felt a lot of things in that hospital, that night — but privileged was not one of them. I wasn’t even remotely white during this time. I was red.

I was blood red. Red with anger. A Redskin without a red cent to pay his soon to be outstanding medical bills. And there’s no such thing as red privilege, I don’t think.

Here’s what I’m trying to convey to you through the above ridiculous but true anecdotes: privilege a hundred percent exists, but it isn’t always color-coordinated. It’s often distributed according to class, socioeconomic status and the perceptions of others.

Sometimes, it isn’t distributed at all. The privilege factory is all out of it, you have to get on a waiting list, or they simply skip over a few people who have faces they aren’t particularly fond of and keep more for themselves. After all, privilege is a privilege — and privileges can be revoked or taken from us. We can lose them. I don’t know if it’s a ‘lose them if you don’t use them’ based system or what. I never got the memo, because I never get the memos.

I’m not complaining about not being privileged, I’m stating the case for why I’m not nearly as privileged as you might presume I am, because I’m proud of it. The gritty and often unfair road I came in on, made me who I am. It’s left me with enough fuel to throw in the fire, to write pieces as such as this.

All I know is, though I’m familiar enough with privileges to recall what they look like, it’s been a while since I can say I truly felt them. I was so young in fact, I probably wasn’t able to identify the fact I was privileged, or I had no idea the color of my skin was providing those I was able to spot when I looked hard enough.

It’s possible I one day dropped my white privilege inside the disgusting hallways of the public high school I attended. Maybe another kid who didn’t have any, stole them from my locker, being it was the second-worst high school in the city as far as the number of crimes reported was concerned.

And those were only the reported ones. I can imagine how many victims of crime were either black, brown, Latino, red, looked red, were drunk, high, fit a description of blah blah blah, were just kind of tired that day, or simply abided by the same “no snitching” policy I did and therefore never reported crimes committed against them, out of fear for retaliation or just the police themselves.

So given all of the above, plus a whole lot more I’ll save for the next time I’m bothered by how often I come across the term “white privilege”, forgive me if I just don’t feel very privileged. I guess all of this poverty in my way and the bad decisions I’ve made in an effort to try and combat it, caused me to lose sight of my privilege. It’s probably around here somewhere — and I’m almost positive someone nearby will point it out to me — so, thanks in advance.

And as always, thanks for reading.

Writing About the Human Condition, via My Thoughts, Observations, Experiences, and Opinions — Founder of Journal of Journeys and BRB INC ©

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store