So I sit in a place of privilege. I am very acutely aware of that and I think it's important for us white folk to recognize it and if we can, squash those who attempt to give us privileges over others around us.
It's an interesting place, seeing how privileged I am and seeing how little those around me see it. I guess it mostly makes me uncomfortable that I wind up in a place to call people on it and it's no fun to be someone who is interrupting things all the time to point out how we are excluding others.
Let's start with t-ball. I know the demographics of our town very well for a variety of reasons, and it mirrors national demographics with our young people mirroring where the US is predicted to be in 10 years with non-white kids being a slight majority and with Hispanic folk being the most numerous group.
My kid's t-ball league had 2 Hispanic kids and maybe 3 other non-white kids from multi-racial families (from what I could tell, it isn't like I met any parents I didn't already know attending t-ball twice a week for 8 weeks). 7 teams of about 15 kids each and that's it. So I was thinking about why that is exactly. Then it dawned on me that second shift was probably to blame. The major employers in town have at least 2 full shifts and sometimes run a pretty full third shift as well. I just bet that non-white folk work disproportionately not first shift, whether that's because they need the extra pay (if there is any?) and I also bet the white folks know a guy who can get them on the day shift. I also suspect that not all Hispanic folks stay in town for years to get seniority to get onto the day shift. If you work second shift, no way you could get your child to evening t-ball. T-ball did cut across classes with kids of doctors and executives and folks with very blue collar jobs playing on the same teams.
Then there's the La Leche League meetings. It gives me this super guilty feeling to attend these because the extreme whiteness and extreme upper to middle class environment kinda makes me gag. I like it because it's nice to talk about nursing and children and cloth diapers without anyone giving you the side eye because nobody but the lucky few have time for discussing any of that, let alone doing it. I hate it because a discussion of how awesome raw milk is doesn't get squashed and it turns out lots of people are all "wahoo! raw milk!" (hint: it is dangerous so do not think there is any way to make it safe, I promise I read the primary literature and looked at the data and just say no) and the levels of middle class and upper class signaling are staggering. The designer diaper bags and fancy toys and even designer labeled kid clothes just rub it in my face that I am in a space that doesn't feel welcoming if you don't belong there. I save up my personal little cache of spending money so I can make the extra trip into the city for the meeting because I need the support since I really don't like nursing the baby that much. It is very obvious that if I said that, I would get a lot of silence or stories about "when we were in medical school" (hint: spouses of med students often say this, and I get that it's a very awful situation to go through but only one of you is a doctor so you weren't both in medical school... ahem...) and it reeks of privilege and I am uncomfortable while being more comfortable at the same time.
There's a mom who I've kinda made friends with who's exclusively pumping and I feel like she and I have more in common than a lot of the other ladies - we aren't saying much about something that's really significant in our lives (she doesn't mention pumping during meetings, I stay silent during discussions of nursing attire because that is a million miles from in my budget in the past year). I have a body type that would blend in pretty well in one of those awful Mad.ea movies and so some of it is body awareness - I do not look like the skinny yoga moms who run marathons with babies in strollers, nor will I ever, no matter if I hit my fitness goals and quiet weight goals. I can't nurse my baby in a cross body hold because my gut is in the way and my boobs just aren't located there anyway. It's nice to see what that should look like, sure, but it's a reminder that this is not really my place.
Of course there's the fertile discomfort element too. A few of the gals are having 4th or 5th babies in the near future, some having surprise additional babies. While I'll grant you that Little Monster really surprised me, it was after 3.5 years of hoping to stay pregnant out of the first trimester so it feels different than "whoops!" There's the guilt too that it will never be that easy for us, never so simple as "well, I'm about 7 weeks now so it's safe to tell you."
The LLL movement was founded by a bunch of stay at home white gals who were pretty well off and it shows in the main handbook (which I read an edition ago so maybe it's better now?) and to a large degree in who attends the meetings. It is weird to me to hear about moms deciding to stay home because it's best for their babies. I mean I suppose it is but it's not an option for me or most people I know IRL.
One of the things I try very hard to do is to get out of my comfort zone and to recognize my neighbors as people just like me. At this end of being broke, where we've asked enough of our close family that we can't ask again for at least a decade and where we are one car repair away from a month of skipped meals for an adult, I have a lot more in common with my neighbors who send money to their families in other countries than I realized. I have a lot more in common with the rest of the 60% of families in my town whose children get free or reduced lunch than I do with my upper middle class white "peers" who do things like take vacations. I'm excited I get to go to a conference next month. It's required for school (to go to any conference for a minimum number of hours) and on the expensive side but we pinched every penny to make it work. I know I'm eating rice and beans while I'm away on rotations next year because there's no other way for us to afford all that travel. I'm stockpiling them now in fact.
The first step to overcoming the divide between us and them is seeing that the divide is there. The second step is reaching across and knowing that the line between well off and destitute is so narrow any of us could get there any minute now. The third step is looking at our skin and our gender and our relationship status and noticing all the privileges we get just for showing up. Then once we see where we are, we step back from privileges given us unfairly whenever we get the chance.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Things have been quite wild around here so here's a speedy update with bullets.
- Little Monster is now officially one. She walks and says a few words and climbs stairs. It boggles my mind. Sometimes she gets close to a tantrum when expressing her opinion like by violently smacking away a sippy cup of milk repeatedly while asking to nurse (so that's how weaning is going...).
- The mystery health problem has resolved itself simply and in time, things should be all back to normal. That's just about the most exciting thing ever.
- The kid is excelling at pushing my buttons and testing every limit and every boundary every opportunity she gets. It is infuriating and stressful and I am not coping very well.
- School carries on. Senioritis is severe at this point. My rotations are all confirmed and I got all my first choices and I'll be out of town for over half of next year.
- The trip to visit my friend in hospice went really well. Little Monster was a saint baby and only one person was rude to us. She screamed and fussed for less than 5 minutes total on each flight. On the way out we didn't check our carry-on suitcase but on the way back I was so tired I succumbed. It was a good choice. The visiting part was really nice and fun until the last day when sad baby was super sad the whole day. It's a hard experience to see someone for what's probably the last time even if we'll chat more over the next few months but it was fun too to get to visit in person.
- I'm at the point in the semester where I'm sure I failed the crucial midterm and I'll wind up having to take a leave of absence and spend another freaking year in school. The grade for the exam won't be done for ages so it isn't like the stress will go away.
- I am trying to keep up with reading blogs but I make no promises about commenting as things are so crunched for time.
- Very soon I will be gone during the week and home only for weekends. It's weird for me to think through how that will work. It's weird for me to imagine being gone that much. It's weird to think about rotations being real after so much time in a classroom. Work! Real work! Patients and people to talk to who aren't going to call me a kid (this is my favorite compliment and I say so often to my professors, especially those who are fewer than 5 years older than me)!
- I miss sleeping a whole lot. I think my first rotation if I have time off in the evenings, I'm going to sleep 2 or 3 hours early to try and catch up.