I meant for this to be quick, but it got a bit long and rambling, as is usual for many of my posts… tl;dr some of the things I take for granted, some of the very small things in life, simple little experiences as a child, everyday sort of stuff, are precisely the sorts of privilege or result from privilege. When I talk about privilege and race and class, I need to be careful to remember it’s these tiny little things that add up to create a big wide world.
Back when I was a little kid, 3, 4, 5 years old, Granddad would sometimes take me to Bear Creek Park in Keller to feed the ducks. Grandmom kept old bread in the freezer and we’d pull some out to thaw after breakfast (I guess) and drive down to the park sometime later.
I’d often eat just about as much of the bread as I fed to the ducks.
I loved that time, and I miss my Granddad.
So a couple of weeks ago, I went for a walk and drive around Irving and I pulled into an old, abandoned shopping center to see if there was anything worth shooting. I liked the boarded up old storefront—I’m thinking it used to be a Sears, or maybe a Montgomery Wards, but I’m not sure: it’s long gone, whatever it is—with the signs wheat pasted on it, and so I took a quick shot out the window and went on my way.
It wasn’t until I got home that I really looked at it.
You can barely make them out, but there’s a woman that I take to be a grandmother with a young child that I take to be her grandson. They’re feeding the pigeons. God willing, that boy will grow up with fond memories of feeding pigeons with his grandmother, and with fond memories of his grandmother.
When people say “Black Lives Matter” what they mean is that black lives matter just as much as white lives matter. In the United States it’s true that all lives matter, it’s just that some lives matter more than others, and we need to call attention to the ways in which some lives are devalued. And believe me, some lives are totally devalued.
What does this have to do with feeding ducks or pigeons?
So I was looking at the picture above, and I hadn’t thought anything about feeding ducks with Granddad in years, and I remembered that I used to feed ducks with Granddad at the park. I remember the park, the creek that ran through it, the big trees, the soft grass, the breeze on my face, the little balls of bread I would roll up and, more often than not, eat or maybe pass to the 12 or 14 ducks that hovered around us. I remember rolling around in the grass and getting a bit muddy. I might’ve even tumbled into the creek once or twice.
And then I though “this is what privilege looks like.”
Now I know that as a white male in the United States, I occupy a privileged position, but I never really thought about what that meant, beyond the obvious stuff. I mean, I’m unlikely to get followed by a stranger and shot on the street for walking home with a bag of skittles and a soda, and if I do, that stranger is very likely to go to prison for a long long time, for example. But I never imagined that my pale skin had anything to do with my Granddad and the time we spent in the park with the ducks.
Yet it’s precisely because of that skin that Granddad had many of the opportunities he had in life and the successes he enjoyed that gave him the leisure to take his grandson to the park to feed the ducks. He and my grandmother had a house in a town with a nice park, with big trees in it and a creek running through it where ducks liked to hang out.
God alone knows why this woman and this child chose to feed pigeons out front of the abandoned department store, but there they are. There are parks sorta nearby, a couple of miles maybe, and there are creeks and trees and all, but maybe there are no ducks there, maybe it’s too far away, maybe the woman or the grandson are afraid of ducks, but pigeons are less threatening. Really, God alone knows.
I suspect (and this makes me something of a racist, I guess) that the woman has had far fewer opportunities in her life than did Granddad or Grandmom or Mom or Dad or me. And I suspect that that the differences in wealth and education in her family history is somewhat less than mine, and I suspect this history of privilege (or the lack thereof) contributed to the locations this woman and my grandfather chose to take their grandchildren to feed birds on a hot summer afternoon.
Am I crazy to think this, in this way? Maybe, but that doesn’t make it any less true. 35 years ago, when I was about that little boy’s age, Granddad used to take me to a lovely, shady park in a nice little town in North Texas to feed the ducks, and here in 2016, this woman and her grandson are standing in a largely abandoned car park under the blazing sun (if I recall, it was over 90℉) with no place to sit, no grass to roll around in or creek to fall into, but otherwise doing pretty much the same thing: feeding birds with some leftover bread.
I said this was going to be a quick one, so I’m going to leave it there. I have no solutions to offer and I don’t even really know what I’m thinking here, really. I hope you have some comments to leave, something to offer or to add, and may God guide me and all of us to recognize our privileges and try to extend them to those less fortunate than we are, amen.