By Dave Oberting
My White Privilege
I was born into a middle-class Midwestern family. Both my parents were teachers. They stayed married to each other for 37 years until my father passed away about a decade ago.
The neighborhoods I grew up in were safe and secure. The kinds of neighborhoods where you could leave your door unlocked. Crime never entered my mind because there wasn’t any.
I spent twelve years in Catholic schools. They weren’t great schools, but they were safe. Aside from the occasional fist fight, there was no violence. We learned the basics.
There was also never any doubt that I would be going to college, both my parents had master’s degrees. There was also never any doubt that my parents would pay for it so that I graduated debt-free.
And most importantly, there was never any doubt that there would be a good white-collar job waiting for me when I graduated and a clear pathway to a successful career.
And here’s the key to this whole story — I took it all for granted. It was an entitlement. It was the definition of the American dream and it was mine by right.
When I think of white privilege, that’s it on silver platter.
The Other Side of the Story
Many, if not most, African-Americans in the District of Columbia, and around the country, have been systematically denied the kinds of educational, economic and job opportunities that the average reader of this blog takes for granted.
Let’s look at a typical African-American child born in the District today: that child has a 72% chance of being born to a single mother. That child has a 47% chance of being born to a single mother who lives in poverty. That child will live in a District where poverty has grown steadily since 1989.
That child has a 45% chance of never graduating from high school, and as an adult, he or she will have a 20% chance of being unemployed, and a 39% chance of living in poverty themselves.
If that child is a boy, he will be 8 times more likely to spend time in prison than a white DC resident.
The median income for white District residents in 2014 was $113,631. The median income for African-American District residents was $41,394. That child will also grow up in a District that has become steadily less equal for the past 40 years.
Most critically, the median white household in the U.S. in 2011 had a net worth of $111,146, while the median net worth of an African-American household was $7,113.
There are many elements of racial justice, but when I think about District residents, what comes to mind first is finding some justice of the economic kind — which is primarily about the availability of and preparedness for good jobs.
Every District resident, regardless of skin color, is entitled to the privilege of taking a good education, good job training, and a good job for granted. Right now, they’re not getting it.
Dave Oberting is the executive director of Economic Growth DC, an economic policy organization focused on the District and its economy. Follow them on Twitter @GrowthDC. You can email Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.