I’ve been meaning to write a post about white privilege by proxy. Because I often felt as a child and especially now as an adult that by surrounding myself with rich white people I have gained access to a lot of relief, food, education, clothes, you name it - just because I was near them.
My mother worked as a nanny for white people. She used to take me to work with her in the summer, so I would play with the white children. I learned English this way at a young age, from my best friend Dylan, to the last little girls I knew, the other Olivia, Matthew, you name it, what the white children had was what the white children passed on.
If rich child didn’t like their toy, it was mine. If rich child grew out of clothes, it probably wouldn’t fit me, but my mom knew *someone* with a baby would appreciate it. If rich family couldn’t finish all their food, we ate it. Always rich people leftovers, which to be honest were always better than our first-overs.
And what I learned quick was that my abusive mother would not hit me in front of white children, and that white children got “time-outs,” and that white children did not HAVE to finish their dinner if they wanted dessert. I learned that white children had activities, commitments, expectations. White children were told “when you grow up.”
My mother, never in her life, referred to “when I grow up.” I didn’t know what college was. I didn’t know that I would really have options. I didn’t know about the future. My parents never asked me about my hopes or predicted a life for me, because as far as they knew the future didn’t include me. One day, we too would be cast away, like so many meals, toys, and leftovers. “Mommy, I don’t like them any more,” the white child might say, and who knows where we’d end up then.
Latina and Black women have a long history of taking care of white people children. I wonder what it says to their Black and Latino children, that they see their mothers working so hard taking care of other white babies instead. The way my mother would look at the little blue-eyed babies made me hate them. I remember wishing more than once I could push a white baby over, pinch it and make it cry, make it go away forever. Horrible white baby, taking my mother away from me. Horrible white baby, my mama hitting me and kissing you. Horrible white baby, driving you to baby-ballet classes while my ass gets fatter and fatter. Horrible white baby, going to good schools while my mom refuses to even read to me. Horrible white baby, my mom whispering to you how clever you are, while telling me I’m no good and her life was ruined when she had me.
White baby’s so happy to see my mom, “Nana Ana”. They always say, “My Ana, My Nana Ana.” Like the bought her off the shelf and now she’s there’s.
I went to a good white college, and white children continued to cast away their goods in my favour. At the end of the semester, white children leave the dorm fridges full, furniture strewn across the laundry room. Go have your pickings, the white children have left this for you.
I married a white man, and he’s a good man, he loves me and he takes care of me. But the condition I was living in before him and now is startling. I hold a BA from a prestigious white college that cost $65K/year. He’s a college dropout. Yet. He’s employable, gifted, a software developer, he feeds me, we have all the middle-class privileges that I only dreamed of as a child - we live in a high-rise downtown - we eat organic. We have a pet cat who gets to regularly see the vet. We can afford health insurance. We can eat out regularly. We can slowly start paying off my student loans. We can theoretically afford to send me to graduate school. Most importantly, I can live in a protected building where white supremacist stalkers from my college cannot visit or find me.
What if you can’t afford to be next to white people, rub elbows and scrounge their crumbs? What then? Where would I be then? Back in El Salvador comiendo mierda and catching cholera from the water. That’s what my mom would say. I don’t know. Part of me likes to imagine, I’d be fine. We were fine before white people. But that’s not true - white people are in El Salvador, they destroyed it, and they have their hands in every community of colour in the world.
I used to ask my dad, how come you moved here if you hate America and white people so much?
He said: Better to Be in The Belly of the Beast Than At Its Jaws.