24 Days of Grateful [Day 8]
I follow Humans of New York on Facebook (if you don’t already, you should) and Brandon’s most recent series is about Syrian refugees. Stop reading this right now and go check it out. Trust me, what they have to say is far more important. (But you can definitely come back to me after you are done :). )
I follow this page daily and reread so many of his interviews. Brandon’s work is so refreshing in the swarm of Internet nonsense that sweeps across my vision every day at work, on my phone, even as I am at home relaxing and watching TV. It is the type of stuff that makes you grateful you have a home to watch TV in at all.
His series on the Syrian refugees is so heartbreaking. Plain and simple, it makes me grateful to be an American. I often forget how blessed I am to have the things I have, like an apartment with heat that most likely will not be bombed ever. Or the opportunity to be a woman and live on my own, choosing who I date and if I will ever marry. Or the fact that I have a college degree.
I can go into an airport and I am not assumed to be a terrorist. I can also go into the grocery store, bank, or mall and will likely be treated with respect. Even over the phone my accent inspires a, “How are you today, ma’am?”
Being a white woman in the United States is valuable currency. This is not a fair phenomenon, but it is true, and I am grateful for it. For whatever reason, God gave me this skin and put me in a country that has never once made me feel unsafe. For inexplicable reasons, he put other souls in other countries in skin that marks them as something dangerous or unequal. It saddens me that wars are broken out (and breaking) over things like this. The world needs a wake-up call.
I wish I wasn’t grateful for white privilege and my home in America because I wish this was the norm — not the whiteness, but the privilege. Ethnicity and nationality should not dictate safety or rights, but this is a global issue that continuously evolves, and I won’t tackle that here.
But today, the fact is that I am grateful for what I look like. It has afforded me an easier middle-class life, an easier education, a job with benefits, dependable heat and electricity. I know my life would be different if I wasn’t a white American. Actually, my life would be unrecognizable.
As a white American, I am subtly reminded every day to feel guilty for my white privilege. It is in the little things, like noting the black man employed to take out the trash, or in the big things, like reading articles about it and seeing #BlackLivesMatter trend. And, honestly, I do feel guilty for it, despite the fact that I can no more control the color of my skin than the next person.
But today, I am replacing that guilt with grace. I am so enormously grateful to be who I am because it has made my life easier. I so often feel the weight of having this life handed to me, in many ways, because of the color of my skin. It is odd to feel guilty for a societal problem, but I know I am not the only one. It isn’t wrong to feel guilty. In some ways, we must, because to ignore the uncomfortable truth is to ignore an imbalance based on ethnicity and race.
I’m not ashamed to be grateful for this, though. When you read stories of people in other countries that may have never known the feeling of national security, you are grateful to have never had your home bombed. When you see pictures of people in your own country that are not white, and have been afforded different opportunities because of it, you are grateful for your own opportunity. No matter why you have it.