Guilty of White

The lottery that I won at 6:37 p.m. on November 18, 1968, was not the product of any hard work on my part. It was not a reward for playing fairly or for especially clean living, nor was it awarded to me for playing by the rules and earning my way.

It was a scratch-off ticket, generated at random, and someone else could have gotten it just as easily as I did. Like the service at a lottery counter in a gas station, life is a first-come, first-served proposition. It was a scratch-off, and, my gosh, did I win a nice jackpot.

If reincarnation existed, one could say that someone else may have deserved this life more than I did or do, and one could certainly argue that someone else might have done a better job with it than I have so far, but it is mine. It is the golden ticket.

The lottery that I won paid off immediately: I am white in a country that treats this minor genetic condition like it is something one diligently worked for and earned. And I am male. I am heterosexual. This world and this country rewards the bearers of those accidental tickets pretty generously, too. When I was a child, my family was middle class in income if not status in a country and at a time when being in the middle of middle-class life in America meant one was living more comfortably than three-fifths of the residents of the rest of the world. And citizens in this country treat that privilege like a victory over immediate enemies rather than the several-generation accumulation of incidents that it is.

Education? Paid for through high school by virtue of being born where I was. By which I do not mean the Spackenkill school district. Nor Poughkeepsie. Not even New York State. Being born in America in 1968 meant an education. (The states were not yet privatizing education or dictating their own local test-versions of education, so I benefited from learning when the dinosaurs existed and the one main reason for the Civil War.) Thanks to my parents, my mom especially, I do not remember the experience of learning how to read or count, because I was taught before my earliest memory (age two and a half) is time-stamped.

Perhaps it is a bit of speculative science fiction to offer the idea that none of these matters are in and of themselves good, righteous, holy, or even earned things. I could have been born in a country that does not privilege the pink pigment of white skin. Or I could have been born in this country but not white. We could have lived in a country where money did not provide some piece of status and “our type” might have been punished at random moments. My mother was born and raised in America, but she had cousins in “the old country” (near Minsk) who were exterminated. They had money.

So I know that I am racist, sexist, whatever-ist. By virtue of being born white, male, and middle class in America in the late 1960s, how could I not be? The day that I walk through (every damn day) is a different day than any woman, black person, gay person—any member of a minority group randomly pre-selected according to these criteria by society—walks through. And the sad, simple fact is that it is a luxury for me to even type that sentence or play with that thought. I do not need to consider what life is like for me, what my day is like, because no power group makes me aware of it.

Oh, sure, it’s society’s rules and some people seem to know how to play by them. “If you don’t commit any crimes, what do you have to worry about?” And that is the thing: I don’t. Simply because I am guilty of white, guilty as charged of male. I am a born member of the power elite, me with my $11,000 annual disability income.

Why does anyone march? Or protest? Or agitate? Or riot, finally? Because if you told me that I had “earned” the genetic anomaly that is taking my legs away, which I did not, not any more than I earned being white or heterosexual, I would attack you with my cane, with every fiber of my being.

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23 comments

  1. Rose Red · December 2, 2014

    Stunning, so powerful. I need to sit and absorb this. Thank you for expressing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. petrd1 · December 2, 2014

    You got that white. I mean write. Oops. Right.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. joatmon14 · December 2, 2014

    Very Powerful. I too must have won some sort of lottery, never looked at it like this. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Chris · December 2, 2014

    What a terrific post. Thank you for sharing that Mark. I appreciate it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. MelissaM · December 3, 2014

    Brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. diarystanam11x2 · December 3, 2014

    sometimes we don’t even roll the dice or purchase a lottery ticket!

    Like

  7. abodyofhope · December 3, 2014

    Wow Mark. Those final sentences completely took my breath away.

    Liked by 1 person

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  11. Erica · April 4, 2015

    By birth, I am completely opposite to you: I am black and female, but I loved your post. It was refreshingly honest and well thought out. None of us had choice in what race/culture we hoped to be but like most things in life, we just accept it and move on. If people judge people based on appearances, they will miss the true beauty God created. None of us are supposed to look the same or act the same. We each have something special to offer this world…

    Thanks for sharing your post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · April 4, 2015

      Thank you for taking the time to read this and write back. The true beauty of creation is all that is actually worth sharing, but sometimes it is a fight simply to get to that starting point. Thanks, Mark

      Liked by 1 person

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  22. Naaria · December 7

    Great post. It seems a lot of people these days (not that I’m very old) judge solely by one’s appearance under the self-righteous guise of fighting bigotry and discrimination. It’s all bass ackwards!

    Liked by 1 person

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