Thursday, July 28, 2016

How To Teach a White Middle Class Teenage Boy About Privilege - in ten easy steps...

You guys know damned well that I'm not writing a how-to instructional guide here.

What I am doing, though, is telling you all a story about how I drove home an important point about privilege in this society to one of the groups of people in this world who needs to understand them the most.

White dudes.

Specifically, the white dudes that live in my house.

Before you all go get your pitchforks and accuse me of race baiting and all the other shit that online trolls like to accuse me and my liberal bitch self of...stop. I've been writing about privilege for a while now and if you don't like it, leave.

You don't even need to announce your departure in some grand obnoxious fashion. You can just go.

For the rest of you, though, I thought this was a pretty profound lesson this week.

On to the story....

The neighborhood we live in is a fairly isolated one. On purpose. There are only two ways in or out of our tiny little neighborhood, it's quiet and there isn't much traffic. We moved here on purpose.

One of the ways out of our neighborhood leads directly to a two lane highway with a posted speed limit of 60mph.

The other way weaves through another neighborhood before depositing you on a major city street. That neighborhood full of bigger, fancier houses. Lots are the same size as ours, by and large, but these are the custom homes with foo-foo kitchens and stonework and media rooms. They're also roughly twice the price of our houses.

We have a little park, they have a pavilion and a pool. We have separate HOAs, and I know they pay a whole lot more a month than we do, though I'm not sure what the actual numbers are anymore. I could investigate, but frankly I don't care.

Anyway, these two very different neighborhoods were developed around the same time, and when they were both developed, we knew that the large plat of land that runs between and adjacent to both neighborhoods would also be developed at some point in the future. With, GASP, smaller houses than ours on smaller lots in a higher density neighborhood.

Oh, the horror.

Then the recession hit. And the land sat and sat and sat until finally it was sold off to another developer, who...wait for it....still wanted to develop the land.

By now, the people in the fancy neighborhood to the South of us had become accustomed to their wide open spaces and small volume of traffic (that they still complained about because people from our neighborhood drove through...the audacity).

They tried to fight the development.

Then, at some point in the past, and I'm not sure even when...they started to get vocal. And pissed. "Their" neighborhood was threatened not just by decreasing property values because of the impending development, but even MORE people would drive down their beloved street. And they didn't want that.

So guess what they did???

They (or the HOA rep or their attorney or whoever they paid to do this) lobbied the City Council, demanding that they get some concessions in exchange for the development of the neighborhood that was always slated for development anyway. The land that none of them owned and had been zoned already when they all bought their fancy houses. They wanted traffic concessions.

Except here is the thing.

The street that connects the now-being-developed-neighborhood to the outside world is up by our neighborhood...not theirs.

They pushed for, and were granted, three traffic circles. In less than a half of a mile. Outside our neighborhood and between the new one...not in their neighborhood at all.

And they did it quietly, had it signed off and approved before we knew anything.

Consequently, we've had streets in our neighborhood shut down. For months. These asinine traffic circles are small and cumbersome and WAY too close together. The construction company with the contract has been dragging their ass, so the project has taken months longer than intended. Winter is coming (because it is Colorado and winter is always coming), and they aren't finished. Still. When the snow comes, driving around these idiotic traffic concessions will be bad enough, let alone trying to plow around them or get the school buses through.

The city council approved them.

The planning department can't do anything.

The works department that will have to plow this street can't do anything.

Our HOA can't do anything.

The owner of the new development is paying for them.

The school district didn't get to weigh in, even though this street is a bus route.

And the fancy, schmancy neighborhood that doesn't even live near this part of the street???

They put a sign up that says 



A giant fuck you to all of us up on this end, living with the construction they wanted, that they aren't paying for, that doesn't affect them. Don't you dare park in front of our houses.

This is the textbook definition of NIMBY. They did this purely to try and prevent development of someone else's land, to make life hell for the rest of their neighbors, and have done it in such a manner that the riff-raff from the contractors aren't even allowed to step foot on their precious area.


Nice, huh?

My son was complaining about the construction, as have we all been for a while now. For him especially, it's frustrating. He's trying to learn how to drive, needing to navigate not just half-installed tiny traffic circles but cones and ditches and lumpy pavement and everything else that comes with it. He's been vocal about his annoyance. When will it be finished? Why is it like this? Don't they know this isn't fair and that this is a terrible idea? Who approved this?

You should have seen his face when I told him WHY it was all happening, who had a hand in it and what the reason was.

He was shocked.

Well, yeah.

Now imagine that instead of talking about a street being fucked up because a neighborhood of people with more money and influence than we have demanded it, we're talking about the institutionalized racism that permeates almost everything in society. Imagine that you're being forced to live with shitty conditions and bias and unfair treatment in just about every aspect of your life because someone with more power, over there and blissfully unaffected, not only doesn't care that you suffer the consequences, but they actually had a hand in creating the situation in the first place.



See what I just did right there?

This inconvenience is temporary. Annoying. It's not life altering. It's not permanent. This isn't something he's going to have to live with every day for the rest of his life. And yet, he got it.

It was caused deliberately by those with more influence just because they could.

It's also one hell of a lesson to teach a white teenage boy.


  1. I mean, I'm grown, and *gasp* Canadian....but can I be one of your kids?

    In all seriousness, though, I stumbled onto your blog quite by accident, and thought I should take the time to tell you something.

    You. Are. Freaking. Awesome!

    1. Hi! Welcome to my strange little corner of the internet! :)

  2. The construction made it difficult to visit the other day. We had to go by like three different closed intersections. I'll be sending the high roller neighborhood an invoice for my time and consternation.


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