Shade Me Privileged
Until recently financial affluence and freedom has been associated with race whereby if you’re white, you are rich by default. You are rich because you were born into riches and if not born into riches by virtue of being white you are born into a financial advantage because the colour of your skin will guarantee you a job where you are making at least five digits in the upwards of R30 000 a month and that’s me low balling.
Now keep in mind how easy it is to reconcile with the default setting of a rich, financially healthy white person and place those characteristics on your black peers. This group of black folk are either born into that one drop in the ocean family that runs a funeral parlour, taxi business or the last thriving spaza and had to work twice as hard to get to half of where the white family is in the same time frame. Their kids get cool phones, a play station, the latest school bags and stationary and their uniform is always on point with lunch enough for their clique. These kids become the object of much hope and envy because they defy the stereotypical image of black struggle and make us wonder why every black person can’t do it. It makes us wonder if they got a head start, if their start point was several freedoms ahead of yours, if they were lucky or even using traditional medicine to get ahead in life. The sad part about the questions that the envy makes us ask them in our head is that we do not wonder the same about the rich other race who had a societal, political, financial and very public head start in life because we expect life to naturally be on their side.
As a black child who lived a charmed life around those who didn’t, at some point you will notice that your norms are far removed from the norms of your like pigmented peers. For instance you will at some point notice that you have more during holidays (which is most) that involve food and luxuries. You have more for yourself, more to share and it seems to come from a place that does not stop but because that is your norm your only indicator that your reality is a dream for others is when you get treated differently somehow. You will notice when your friends don’t want to go home, when they insist on sleeping over at your house and never theirs, when they don’t have a new dress every other Sunday at church, that you might have a different shade of the spoon. It will at some point in your life be important how you respond to the treatment of those around you; are you a rich snob? Are you down to earth by your peers’ definition? Can you relate to them and their struggles despite your rare fortune? Can you put aside your norms to put yourself in their second hand school shoes? Do you feel guilty, cocky or grateful for the sweeter fruits of your life? Do you rub your riches, intentionally or unintentionally, in their face?
As the child who lived as the stereotypical black child in the typical black community of a township, do you find yourself resenting the black privileged child? Do you feel they owe you some form on solidarity or relatability? Do you find yourself asking the rich black child this question in your head? “Are you aware that you can be as rich as you want but you will always be black and therefore should at some level understand what it is to not be privileged?”
I want to lead this conversation with is this; does the colour of one’s skin affect the way their privilege is perceived, experienced by them and those around them who do and don’t live the same way and who are and are not of the same skin colour?