We were driving home from somewhere the other day, and when we turned onto our road we saw a young man out for a run.
“Hey, that’s my running buddy!” Tyler announced to the car.
“Oh yeah? You see him out and about when you’re jogging?”
“Yep, we nod at one another.”
While I don’t know this young man’s name, I do know he is our next door neighbor. He appears to be older than Tyler, beyond high school, but not by much. He is also Black.
It didn’t occur to me at the time. In fact, rarely do I ever have to stop and consider my son’s race or his appearance when his 15 year old self ventures out into the world solo, like, say, for a jog.
It wasn’t until the news about Ahmaud Arbery exploded that it dawned on my how this simple thing, me having no qualms about my oldest son heading out of the house on his own, is in fact an example of privilege.
My teenage son goes out into the world alone without an adult needing to give him any other warnings or reminders other than, “Be safe” or “Love you” or “Be home by 9.” Before the pandemic, he and one of his friends who is also white, would often bike to the nearby Walmart or Meijer, as well as other local stores, and wander around the stores for hours. I never once considered the possibility that he may get in trouble for seeming suspicious or for loitering or for being too loud. And if he and his friend did get into trouble as teenagers do, I have never considered the possibility that he could lose his life if the police were called. Or if someone carrying a concealed weapon decided to take matters into their own hands. Never.
My worry about the possibility of him not coming home safely has only been caused by horrific thoughts of a careless driver careening into him while he is walking or riding his bike. But never because he might get questioned or stopped or chased after or shot. Never.
I can safely assume our jogging neighbor has had much different reminders or warnings with his family when he about to head out the door. They most likely have more or even completely different worries than careless drivers. He probably makes sure to take his ID with him on his daily jogs. My family leaves the house to go on walks without phones or IDs all the time. Without a second thought.
Maybe it doesn’t sound like much, but those are two very different worlds my Black neighbors and my white family live in. White people, we must acknowledge that this difference, this privilege exists. That is the first step to this vital antiracist work that the world is begging of us right now.
We cannot ignore it.