The 'white experience' and me

I'm white, female, and like every other person alive, my race and sex is an accident of birth not a choice, and like every other person alive, my color is only skin-deep.  I'm finally fed up with hearing about the "black experience" and how "white privilege" is keeping blacks down.  Growing up in Philadelphia in a lower middle-class family, meals were whatever meat was the cheapest and could be stretched the furthest.  Things like roast beef were only for holidays and special occasions like birthdays.  My favorite Christmas present was a pair of used figure skates.  

As a child my presents were clothes for my dolls that my mother made from fabric remnants.  Until about the age of 13 my mother made all my clothes because it was cheaper.  But education and reading were stressed -- lots and lots of reading.  It's doubtful if the same situation occurred today I would have a cell phone and we wouldn't have a big screen TV.  My parents, one a high school graduate the other who only went to the 8th grade, sacrificed what little they had to ensure that my brother and I could achieve what they couldn't -- a college education.  We didn't feel deprived or envious of others who had more than we did.  There was no privilege.  Through hard work and our parents’ support, I became a Registered Nurse and my brother a physician.  Since then, everything -- all my achievements -- were through hard work not "white privilege."

Let me tell you a little about my "white experience."

I worked in the Corporate IT Department for the now defunct United Hospitals in Philadelphia.  One of the corporate hospitals was St. Christopher's Hospital for Children located in a heavily black and economically depressed part of Philly. Since we were bringing computerization to all the corporate hospitals I had occasion to spend a great deal of time at St. Christopher's.  Having been told before my first visit that the "zone" was to drive up 4th street and back down 5th street and not to stray onto any other streets in order to remain safe.  

One early morning about 5 am I had occasion to be going to St. Christopher's.  My gas tank was almost empty and there were no stations anywhere on my route.  So, after conducting my business I went a block away from the hospital to get gas for the return trip.  Being outside the "zone" I was exposed to name calling, epithets and threats.  Fortunately one of the miscreants noticed my badge, which stopped what was happening.  People who worked for the hospital were protected because the hospital cared for their children, other "non-blacks" were not.

I have always had black friends, inviting them to my home for parties and socializing They have stayed in my home, and still do. At the age of 70, I have never been invited to the home of one of my black friends.  Questioning one of them, the response was that it might not be safe. I'm not sure if they meant it wouldn't be safe for them or for me.  I never asked again.  I have, however, been in the homes of my Hispanic and Asian friends.

I purchased a small house in southern Delaware in 1999.  One morning around 2 am, being sleepless, I decided to leave for New Jersey and get to the beach early.  On the way I stopped at a 24 hour Denny's in northern Delaware where I occasionally went for an early dinner.  It was always integrated with no problems.  This particular morning, I was the only white person there.  The management was black, the wait staff were black and all the customers were black.  I was seated and then it started.  The noise level increased dramatically, the air was filled with profanity and I heard "white bitch" and "honky" multiple times.  I didn't engage or react, continuing to read my book and eat my meal.  Management disappeared and the wait staff stood glaring at me with their arms folded.  Not one person stepped in to stop what was happening.  Yes, I was afraid, and I think my fear was justified.  But I refused to give in and stayed to finish my meal.

I'm certainly no Rosa Parks, but Rosa Parks didn't give in either -- and she succeeded in demonstrating for an entire race what could be accomplished without violence.  Today's blacks should learn from the past, not just blame people for the past.  An entire race or country wasn't responsible for slavery.  Where is the blame for the black tribes in Africa who sold their black enemies into slavery?  Blacks want to be called "African-American" as if Africa had no part in the slavery that is part of our country's history.  There is still slavery in parts of Africa, while here white people fought and died so slaves could be freed.  My ancestors weren't slave owners -- both sides of my family fought for the North in the civil war.  But, that's not the narrative of the race baiters.  A dialogue does need to be started but honestly, not with fictions created by people who have only their own interests at heart.   It's not just black lives that matter--all lives matter.

Claire Hawksley is an average non-hyphenated American, retired from both her RN and IT positions. She doesn't blog but can be reached at chawks60@comcast.net.

I'm white, female, and like every other person alive, my race and sex is an accident of birth not a choice, and like every other person alive, my color is only skin-deep.  I'm finally fed up with hearing about the "black experience" and how "white privilege" is keeping blacks down.  Growing up in Philadelphia in a lower middle-class family, meals were whatever meat was the cheapest and could be stretched the furthest.  Things like roast beef were only for holidays and special occasions like birthdays.  My favorite Christmas present was a pair of used figure skates.  

As a child my presents were clothes for my dolls that my mother made from fabric remnants.  Until about the age of 13 my mother made all my clothes because it was cheaper.  But education and reading were stressed -- lots and lots of reading.  It's doubtful if the same situation occurred today I would have a cell phone and we wouldn't have a big screen TV.  My parents, one a high school graduate the other who only went to the 8th grade, sacrificed what little they had to ensure that my brother and I could achieve what they couldn't -- a college education.  We didn't feel deprived or envious of others who had more than we did.  There was no privilege.  Through hard work and our parents’ support, I became a Registered Nurse and my brother a physician.  Since then, everything -- all my achievements -- were through hard work not "white privilege."

Let me tell you a little about my "white experience."

I worked in the Corporate IT Department for the now defunct United Hospitals in Philadelphia.  One of the corporate hospitals was St. Christopher's Hospital for Children located in a heavily black and economically depressed part of Philly. Since we were bringing computerization to all the corporate hospitals I had occasion to spend a great deal of time at St. Christopher's.  Having been told before my first visit that the "zone" was to drive up 4th street and back down 5th street and not to stray onto any other streets in order to remain safe.  

One early morning about 5 am I had occasion to be going to St. Christopher's.  My gas tank was almost empty and there were no stations anywhere on my route.  So, after conducting my business I went a block away from the hospital to get gas for the return trip.  Being outside the "zone" I was exposed to name calling, epithets and threats.  Fortunately one of the miscreants noticed my badge, which stopped what was happening.  People who worked for the hospital were protected because the hospital cared for their children, other "non-blacks" were not.

I have always had black friends, inviting them to my home for parties and socializing They have stayed in my home, and still do. At the age of 70, I have never been invited to the home of one of my black friends.  Questioning one of them, the response was that it might not be safe. I'm not sure if they meant it wouldn't be safe for them or for me.  I never asked again.  I have, however, been in the homes of my Hispanic and Asian friends.

I purchased a small house in southern Delaware in 1999.  One morning around 2 am, being sleepless, I decided to leave for New Jersey and get to the beach early.  On the way I stopped at a 24 hour Denny's in northern Delaware where I occasionally went for an early dinner.  It was always integrated with no problems.  This particular morning, I was the only white person there.  The management was black, the wait staff were black and all the customers were black.  I was seated and then it started.  The noise level increased dramatically, the air was filled with profanity and I heard "white bitch" and "honky" multiple times.  I didn't engage or react, continuing to read my book and eat my meal.  Management disappeared and the wait staff stood glaring at me with their arms folded.  Not one person stepped in to stop what was happening.  Yes, I was afraid, and I think my fear was justified.  But I refused to give in and stayed to finish my meal.

I'm certainly no Rosa Parks, but Rosa Parks didn't give in either -- and she succeeded in demonstrating for an entire race what could be accomplished without violence.  Today's blacks should learn from the past, not just blame people for the past.  An entire race or country wasn't responsible for slavery.  Where is the blame for the black tribes in Africa who sold their black enemies into slavery?  Blacks want to be called "African-American" as if Africa had no part in the slavery that is part of our country's history.  There is still slavery in parts of Africa, while here white people fought and died so slaves could be freed.  My ancestors weren't slave owners -- both sides of my family fought for the North in the civil war.  But, that's not the narrative of the race baiters.  A dialogue does need to be started but honestly, not with fictions created by people who have only their own interests at heart.   It's not just black lives that matter--all lives matter.

Claire Hawksley is an average non-hyphenated American, retired from both her RN and IT positions. She doesn't blog but can be reached at chawks60@comcast.net.