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- Growing Up Bronx
Over the years, I have come to realize one of many things. People think that my light skin affords me many special privileges. Oh yes, supposedly I have what people call white privilege. I suppose that white people are just not that bright? Right? They would never, ever suspect that a name like Angel Rodriguez belongs to a Latino of Puerto Rican descent. My thick eyebrows, my facial structure and features, my “Nu-yorican” accent, even my manner of speaking, none of these things give me away as a Latino. No, they think I’m one of those Rodriguez people from the white part of Latino America.
Side note, there are Spanish-speaking white folks in Latin America. Their lineage could be Italian, or some other European country. However, they consider themselves Argentinian, or wherever they happen to be born, they speak Spanish as their native tongue, they have blonde hair and green eyes. White as they come, but I digress. I’m not one of those guys; I’m from the Bronx. In fact, those guys generally look down on us as “less pure” Spanish-speaking folks. So, even the Spanish white people don’t honor my white privilege! They don’t consider me as one of them!
I’m confused. I thought that because I have light skin, I’m supposed to get special treatment? Maybe it comes later, yes; that’s it. It comes later. Let’s examine the past, to see where we are going then.
As a “white” guy, growing up in the South Bronx, my experience with white privilege was less than swell. I can still remember how everyone in Junior High School 147 received me with open arms. They were so excited to have a “white” guy at school; they couldn’t wait to get a hold of me. I think they wanted to hug me so badly that they ended up beating the crap out of me on that first day of class instead. They wanted to repeat this for the whole entire year. We never gave them the chance to do so though. See, after I came home bloodied, and with my face swollen on that first day, my mom decided to transfer me out of that God-forsaken school on Webster Avenue.
When I started at Junior High School 117 the next day, the guys there also loved that I was “white,” they beat me up just as badly! As a bonus, they stole my money, bus pass, hat, and attempted to take my sneakers! That is until they realized that they were imitation Reeboks. Then they beat me up for trying to “trick” them with my skippies. Skippies was the term for cheap, imitation, or “not in style” shoes.
As I walked up the block from Jerome Avenue, I saw a few of my home boys. I decided to stop by and say hello to them. Moments later, we heard the familiar sound of the sirens coming from the 5.0! 5.0 means police, same as popo, and as we say in espanol, la jara. So yeah, for some reason, the popo was zoned in on the group I was talking to. Before I realized it, I was up against the wall of 105 East Clarke Place. They frisked me, mushed me (pushed my head), and embarrassed me and my friends in front of the whole block. We were all clean, and there were many eyes watching, so the popo let us go.
“Stay out of trouble, you juvenile delinquents.”
Another day, as I took the same walk, I passed by the precinct which was right down the block from where I lived by the way. Their presence in the area didn’t do anything to curb the gangs, drugs, violence, or even the killing of some of my good friends in the block. They only selectively showed up, and it was usually to mess with us “good kids.” As I walked pass the precinct, a few white cops came out, they screamed at me and asked me what I was doing. I told them I was walking home. They asked me if I was trying to steal one of their cars? I replied no, that I was not foolish.
“Damn right you are not stupid. Get the hell out of here before you get in trouble.”
Some years later, when I was involved in a big gang fight, some cops caught me. They took me into a little room and they said “Hey, a bunch of n*ggers are about to beat up your sp*c friends. You wanna go help your homies?”
So here I am, confused as all hell! What was wrong with these people? Didn’t they know that I’m a white guy? I’m supposed to have that thing! You know, that white privilege. Things would change when I got to the work force though, I mean, they have to realize that I’m white and entitled to that privilege. Right?
Well, on my first day in corporate America, a gentleman came up to me; he looked me up and down, then he said, “Stay out of my way, you sp*c, you do that, and we’ll get along just fine.” Now, the guy was only jerking my chain, but the joke was of a racial nature, which indicates that he too was not acknowledging my white privilege! Dammit!
Like many Americans, I decided that I wanted to serve my country. So I joined the Air Force. Part of my travels took me to a place called Wichita Falls, Texas. This place is practically on the border of Oklahoma, and there I was, a city boy from the Latino side of the Bronx. Hanging out in Wichita Falls, trying to make friends and pick up girls. I was in a tattoo parlor, and in comes a group of big white boys, “Where you from, boy, you look to me like you is one of them Yankees. We don’t like your kind around here. Go back up north, boy. We don’t want your kind in this here place of business.” They said something, to that effect, the takeaway though, these guys, like the black guys, and the latinos in my old neighborhood, like the kids at my old school, like the police officers, like the guy at work, and just like the many others, they too failed to honor my white privilege.
I keep hearing about how good I had it. People have entered into passionate arguments with me, saying that I have no idea how lucky I am to be of fair skin. They say that all that I have achieved is due to my skin color. Well, hell, someone should have told me, then I wouldn’t of gone to school. I wouldn’t of worked so hard, day and night to separate myself from the pack. I would not have busted my butt in college to graduate with a 3.97 GPA, and Summa Cum Laude honors. I wouldn’t have made the President’s list all through my educational career, every single year, if I knew I had special privileges.
In fact, someone should have also told all of those people that abused me because I looked white. I think they misread the memo. White privilege means that I get special treatment and privileges. It doesn’t mean that I get my butt whooped by Latinos and blacks for looking white, while the real white people just see me as a regular Latino man from the Bronx. Where is the privilege in that? Seems to me that I’m getting screwed by the whites, blacks, and the Latinos. Why do some people insist on saying that I have white privilege, when they don’t know a damn thing about me and what I went through in life?
To those that say that I, or any other hard working person, has white privilege. To those that downplay all of my efforts, my hard work and personal sacrifices, not only for myself, my family, but for my country, I invite you to take your white privilege conferences, your veiled racist statements, your pathetic whining, and put your lips right on my plump butt. Stop looking for handouts and earn your own. When you encounter someone like me, that made something of themselves, that bust their butt, think twice before you label us as having white privilege. Aside from the fact that I am healthy, and able to function via my own devices, there has been little to no privilege in my life.
Thank you, that is all.
Growing Up Bronx