Privilege and the Truth

It feels right, being back in the Bay.  Back in my little apartment off Ashby, the noisy neighbors, the screaming sirens, synching the fall and rise of my chest with the passing traffic, tire screeches and honking horns. There is something about living here. So raw. Makes everything else seem whimsical.

I went to a training last night in Oakland for the new school I will be directing. Searching for the conference room, I shuffled through Frank Ogawa Plaza- a little over a dozen “Occupiers” remain. They’re holding their General Assembly like a mother still calling her deceased sons phone, still making his bed, unaccepting defeat, hoping one day he will come home. There is a lot of commotion, drinking, bullshitting and babbling from other stragglers in the park, I feel their eyes on me- eyes on white girl dressed nice, fancy watch, smart phone – feel animosity burn into me from my feet up. I drop my phone into my oversized hand bag and tuck  my watch into my blazer, scurry a little faster, irritated at my inability to find this meeting room, irritated at their looks.

Two older white women with botox and darting eyes, drift hopelessly through the plaza as well, I take comfort in their gaudiness- we join forces and conquer this abyss called direction – GPS needs to have an “avoid ghetto” route.

The meeting goes well, I am surprised by the amount of volunteers that showed up to work at schools. Lots of good hearted people. Then there are those women who take way too much pride in announcing they’ve been with the program fro 6 years, scoff at naïve questions and feel the need to expand upon every point made by the facilitator- cause they know. People are funny. Whatever though, whatever makes you feel like you’re the captain of the ship.

I’m at home with the girls. Straightening Mashari’s hair while TaShy drifts in and out of sleep on my lap. The oldest one, DayDay, tells me stories about her friends and their relationship drama. How he threw half her clothes out of the house and refused to let her get the rest, arguments ensued and the confrontation escalated to threats of violence. DayDay called the police, but they asked way too many questions, none of which demanded an address. They called again, but the police never came. DayDay says its because they in East Oakland, and what business do the cops have coming to a domestic disturbance call in East Oakland.

Last semester I took a class on Minorities in the Struggle. Our GSI, Reggie, led discussions, he talks calmly and out of the side of his mouth. Reggie talks about privilege like a sinister ghost, a haunting past.. He says the most important thing in life is truth. I am understanding both of these now. White privilege means not having to think about your ethnicity. Your name. the way you talk, your address. DayDay knows the police didn’t come because they were in East Oakland. But the truth is they didn’t come because they were black. The truth is there are several micro factors going into it- saying your name is DayDay – strike one. Grammatical errors- strike two. That frantic, angry tone mixed with the cross streets you just gave- might as well hang up the phone. Even now as I am typing this, red lines sit beneath all the girls names, red as in wrong, hanging below like rotten roots prohibiting the tree from growing. The leaves will never know of this, the branches will always break in frustration, not knowing why.

I know why.

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