Tim Kaelin Host
I am white – there is privilege in that
I am male – there is privilege in that
I am straight – there is privilege in that
I am able bodied – there is privilege in that
I am American – there is privilege in that I was brought into this world with enormous privilege. When I was born I was close to 2nd base. White, lower middle class. My mother was a waitress and my father was a stripper (in the printing industry, a laborer, get your mind out of the gutter). And that is not a bad place to be. This held until I was about 12, then my parents got divorced. To a lower middle class family divorce is catastrophic. There was barely enough to support one household, now that gets split in two. I moved with my mother, my younger brother and younger sister out of our house in a nice town to an apartment in a tougher community. The adjustment from a house to an apartment is something that I never fully made.
My mother drove a Mercury Bobcat. If you don’t know what a Mercury Bobcat is, it is a knock-off of the Ford Pinto. The Ford Pinto is one of the most dangerous cars ever made, if it was rear-ended there was a high likelihood it would explode. We couldn’t afford that. I joked that our car would explode if it got hit on any side. We would go months without a phone. We’d go long stretches without heat or hot water. I remember having to microwave water so that me and my brother and sister would have hot water to wash with. My after school activities consisted of working and taking care of my brother and sister so that my mother could work. She busted her ass. Being a waitress is hard. She would work double shifts (12 hour days minimum) Thursdays-Sundays. She hung on by her fingernails.
I was not near 2nd base anymore. What the fuck happened.
It was tough, but we fought through it. It was a struggle and the slightest unexpected curveball was enough to send us into a tailspin for months. I remember that the car needed a new muffler. We didn’t have cash for that. So we drove around in a car that sounded like an 18 wheeler. When I was 16 or so my mother found a lump in her breast. She was around 37 years old. She died when she was 42. During the 5 years she was sick our family lost everything. She was a waitress, she didn’t have benefits. When she first found the lump, she didn’t seek medical care. Why? She never said. My guess is that she was scared. Scared of being sick. Scared of losing her kids. Scared of not being able to work (if she didn’t work, she didn’t get paid). Scared of losing her home. If this same scenario played out today, 30 years later, absolutely nothing would change. A single mother of 3, that is a waitress, with no benefits, who gets cancer would face the same impossible decisions my mother had to make. That is offensive.
I have no home. I am on 1st. Where is our white privilege?
I was on or around 1st base for a long time. 1st base is tough. It is nearly impossible to advance. There were many years where I thought the idea of white privilege was absolute bullshit. That being a white male meant nothing. I was a white male and all my family got was screwed. I was angry and confused. I was this way until I heard the saying “Being sick and tired of being sick and tired.” I was sick and tired of being angry and confused. I made the choice to fix it and I went to work. I completed my BA and got 2 Masters degrees in my 40’s and I am now comfortably on 2nd base and maybe even on the base path to third.
What I realize now is my white male privilege was there the entire time. I believe that if I was anything other than a white, straight, able bodied American male, I never would have got out of the hole that life dug for me. I made a shit-load of mistakes, and being a white male is one of the biggest reasons I didn’t face stiffer consequences (facing a judge, and the judge saying “Kaelin, what’s a good Irish lad doing here?” and letting me off. Which is funny because I’m not Irish.) What I’ve been through in my life has been fucking hard. If I were anything else it would have been fucking impossible. That is my experience.