If you have ever worked in retail, (I grew up in a family retail business) or know someone who has, I am sure you know what it means to take inventory. Count what you have and compare that to what you should have. I was “taking inventory” in our family stores with my father and grandparents twice a year from the time I was fourteen.
…Today I learned of the passing of a friend of one of my monthly lunch group buddies. His death was partially related to Vietnam War era health issues. That led me to think that one of my favorite people in the whole world (also in that lunch group) has dealt with these same issues. Moreover, I can easily count at least five longtime friends who have passed away or are severely affected by health related issues tracing back to that war.
In a sense, I was taking inventory of my friends who lives have been so affected. That led to taking inventory of my life at that time. I easily realized that my privilege as a white middle class college student provided me several years of college draft deferments. This, and later a high draft lottery number, kept me for the military draft that existed at that time. I am also darn sure that I had just enough vision problems that my doctor (a longtime family friend) would have provided a medical report that would classify me as physically unfit to serve.
I’ve decided it is time for me to take inventory of the privileges I have received based on my skin tone, and that of my ancestors.
My great grandfather came to the United States from Germany in 1873. He was the poor son of a German Jewish pack peddler, and survived his first few months sleeping in a crate behind a butcher shop, surviving on the meager scraps provided by the butcher. According to family lore, his hard work led to his business success and a plentiful life, which has carried on for five additional generations.
However, what if great grandfather had be a person of color? Surely, there are people of color who have worked just as hard, and I am sure harder, that did not achieve the level of status, success and privilege as my ancestor.
The difference was our white skin.
So I am going to take inventory on a daily basis, to understand how my family’ privilege has so benefited us, and denied People of Color. More importantly, I pledge to continue to work, through my writing, facilitating and actions to remove the barriers to all who are denied what we call the “American Dream.”
What will you do?