White privilege is a very touchy subject. Probably that first sentence already turned many of you off of reading the rest of this blog post. This isn’t a blog post to make people feel bad about being white, or the privileges that go along with it. This isn’t a blog post to try and pretend that white people don’t have problems or struggles. Instead, it’s a realization I’ve had over the past few days just how privileged I am – in part because of my race, but also because of other factors as well. And thanks to that privilege, I have peace of mind where others don’t.
But, let’s start with my lack of peace of mind. I am sort of terrified about moving at the moment. Not the actual act of moving, although that’s also so daunting that I choose not to think about it most of the time. No, I’m talking about what happens once we get to America. What if we don’t get the amazing jobs we’re imagining? What if the political leadership ends up causing economic disaster or even another world war? We live in a very nice bubble here in South Africa – what if by moving we actually make things worse for our family instead of better? But in the past couple days my perspective has shifted again.
The State of the Nation Address in South Africa was absolutely terrifying. To watch a brawl break out in parliament, complete with pepper spray and a laughing president is the stuff of dictatorships. Sure, South Africa is still technically a democracy, but when you see things like that, it doesn’t necessarily feel that way. So there is a bit of a push element from that, making me feel better about our choice to leave South Africa (as much as I love this country). It’s also a sign of how privileged we are, that we have the option to leave this country and try our luck in other one is proof of a privilege we have that only a small percentage of South Africans share.
Of course, in order to get there, we need to get Dean’s Green Card sorted. We received approval for the first step, the part I did with citizen services, and now we just have to wait for the State Department to get the ball rolling on the visa side of things. It’s a stressful experience, doing the admin and hoping that nothing unforeseen pops up that might get in our way. But we are incredibly privileged: we are white, English-speaking, middle-class and from a country that isn’t on a ban list. This already means that we should (hopefully) have a relatively easy application process.
And then when we get to the States, we will be part of the white majority. Yes, Dean will actually be an immigrant, and Harley will be an African-American, but we will look from the outside like a typical white family, complete with all the default respect and civility that receives. And while it’s important to me to send Harley to a school with diverse classmates, I realized after reading this article that her diversity will probably be a boutique experience, a carefully curated bonus the school adds rather than a particularly representative experience of the racial makeup of our area.
Travel, emigration, schooling. These are all things that are important to me, that I’m willing to work towards, fight for. And yet, thanks to my white, highly-educated, middle-class identity, I probably won’t really need to fight, won’t really need to work that hard for. If I think of how daunting, how overwhelming this experience is, and I have relative peace of mind, just imagine what it must be like for those who don’t.
Now excuse me, I need to go track down more documents and put more files together because it appears that’s what moving overseas is all about – endless damned admin.