Privilege is a dangerous thing

I have always taken for granted the fact that I have always been somebody’s baby.

Now I try really hard (at his very strong request) not to write about my husband. But as marriages go, ours is full of some pretty insightful conversations. And this moment came back to mainly because (as most revelations do) it required me to.

Long story short: I was buying some gifts. One gift was some bluetooth headsets. I sent the kids to get his approval. They came back like, yeah dad wants these. I’m like, seriously!? I walk over to him and say, “You big baby!” And he said, “Well, I oughta get to be somebody’s baby!”  I got another pair for the gift and upgraded the ones for him. Because he was right: he is my baby. Though maybe not in the way he meant.

Meanwhile, days later, this scene plays back in my head as scenes often do, and I had a revelatory flash: I have always been somebody’s baby.

Still am. 90% of every outfit I own, somebody else bought it. Shoes, too. And jewelry. I rarely buy clothes for myself. Spencer buys me stuff. My mama and auntie send me things all the time. My grandma. My cousin just gave me a bag of shoes she has never worn. Her mom gave me dresses and groceries. People buy me food without asking. Coffee. Lipsticks, b. A colleague whom I absolutely admire gave me two pair of expensive shoes that she may have worn twice. I stop in folk’s offices and take candy, chips, and juice and nobody blinks.

I am a big privileged baby.

What amazed me as I replayed that moment in the store is how absolutely privileged I am. I don’t know what it means to not have someone somewhere love me so much as to just give me things. I can always count on my mama and nem to send me random hits of cash or stuff. Every trip to Mississippi finds me loaded with food, household goods, clothes, and the like. I rarely buy my kids shoes or clothes; other people do that. And not no junk either.

What is it like to live without people who favor your life so as to give freely and liberally of what they have, no questions asked?

It was a real moment of gratitude. And responsibility. Because in being so freely blessed, what would keep me from being a blessing? I’ll tell you what: the idea that if I give, then I’m somehow losing something. After a while, the mind will trick you into believing that you deserve privileges, that you’ve earned them. You forget that unlike so many others you’ve been given a huge headstart. That you might even continue to receive real tangible benefits tied to your status, not thinking about how you’ve been blessed on top of blessed.

Black people have never been anybody’s baby.

Spencer’s comment sums up the ethos of black America. We have been denied the beauty of that kind of privileged existence. Nobody claims us. Not Africa. Not America. Or any of the other countries we’ve ended up in. Hell, we don’t even claim ourselves sometimes. And while we do for self (and remarkably so), that lack of experience–of being so completely cared for that you don’t evem give a thought to it–drives everything we do. We continue to point out loudly that we, too, would like to be somebody’s baby, rarely trying to take away the exalted status of our white counterparts. We just want that privilege, too.

 

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