The Most Despicable Term I’ve Ever Heard

by Elise Lockamy

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I can hear my mother’s voice now.

“You let her do that to you!  You are not a garbage can! DO NOT ACCEPT TRASH!”

With her words in the back of my mind, I grow disheartened when I hear the term “white trash”. Themes persist in its denotations – backwards, derogatory, disparaging, inferior, rural South, underprivileged, uneducated, and poor.  Google Images of trailer parks, confederate flags, tattooed toothless bearded pot-bellied men, and guests of the Jerry Springer show flood my search results.  The sloth of society.  The meth users. The social service leeches. The ones of questionable hygiene and moral stature.  White trash.

We throw away items that have lost their use and value.  We no longer need the empty peanut butter jar, used aluminum foil, or the comb with missing teeth.  As I stare into my trash can I realize that I, by various means of consumption, have used up the items I discarded until they’re no longer valuable to me.  Is it the same with this perceived underclass?  Have we, the other, positioned ourselves to use up a group of people – in this case poor whites – until they are no longer valuable to us?

I believe “white trash” is a cover-up term.  Those in positions of power and access choose not to acknowledge (the social and public policy failure that is) poverty amongst white Americans and thus relegate them to a disposable sector of society.   We create social labels to categorize and distance ourselves from the other.  In this case, “white trash” is the crab pot.  I firmly believe the wall built to section off poor whites will reveal itself to be a two-way mirror for society’s ruling class.  They too will see their own faces in the faces of America’s poor.

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Black Privilege

by Elise Lockamy

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Retrieved August 27, 2013 from https://www.google.com/#fp=e08be61500653123&q=define+privilege

Inhale. Exhale.

I actually took a moment to breathe it in.  The air was crisp and cool.  I felt refreshed.  I was standing on the campus of Milton Academy, the boarding school I attended for high school.  When I was there I did not appreciate it.  I was a gifted Black, Brooklyn girl thrown into a conglomerate of rich Others, all the while going through typical teenager angst.  It was a growing experience – tons of fun and a mess at the same time.

When I returned 8 years later I marveled at all I had access to.  There was an arts center, a well-manicured lawn (“the quad”), a cafeteria with loads of goodies, a student center, an observatory, modern gymnasium (complete with a weight room and ice hockey rink), expansive library, fabulous teachers, and great dorm parents. One year, Bill Clinton spoke at graduation.  (He is a close family friend of one of the legacy families at the school.)  There was a Kennedy in attendance when I was there.  Oh, you know the acclaimed writer Junot Diaz?  He visited after publishing his second work and had an intimate rap-session with the students of my English class.

o_O

When first pushed to explore black privilege I think about access.  Well look at all I had access to as a result of my academic talents .  The promise my teachers saw in me, the preparation Prep for Prep poured into me, and the support of family and friends propelled me to an echelon I could have never imagined experiencing.  I was living the dream, so to speak, and did not know it.  Is that privilege though?  Access to amenities and influential people?

I reflect on the results of my google query.  Privilege, it seems, is less about access and more about authority in a position of governance.  I maintain that we, the class of “firsts” – the first to go to college, the first to make it out the ‘hood, the first to travel and live outside of the U.S., the first to rub noses with millionaires – are living in a space where we are free to choose how to govern ourselves.

Let me philosophize a little more.

We, the post-freedom riders, are now free to choose whether or not to embrace diversity and multiculturalism, become the people who gentrify our historic neighborhoods, identify as Black, and vote Democrat.  We are free to choose whether or not we combat inequality and injustice, marry inside the race, or give back to community.

Pre-privilege, there was no choice.  You were Black (one-drop rule remember).  You lived in a certain neighborhood and sat in the back not by choice but by legal mandate.

But as we progress I ponder this – when we judge our brothers and sisters for voting Republican and marrying White (yea I said it), are we in fact putting our chains back on and revoking our privileges?  When we take back a person’s Black card have we in fact behaved as our former oppressors and stolen identity, as it was, because he or she does not resemble our Blackness?

(I think I may have just ripped off a scab.   I’ll follow-up when it gets itchy again.)

I went on to Georgetown University and fell in love with a life’s call there.  I even pursued a Master’s degree in a field my parents still do not know how to describe.   I enjoy my authority.  I chose to be the dream without becoming a doctor, lawyer, or investment banker.  I enjoy my friends from different nations who do not look like me and may not understand my cultural experience.  I defend those with low-incomes to those who have turned their noses up at them.  I enjoy my music… nice and loud… and will not apologize for doing so.  This Black privilege echoes the freedom I have found in Christ, to be exactly who he designed me to be without all the condemnation and apologies. Freedom rings here.

What do you do with your Black privilege (free will)?  Do you try to fit the mold or do you live free?  Do you oppress or do you edify?  Leave your reflections in the comments section.  I would love to hear your thoughts.