I recently watched Meredith Vieira. Ordinarily this is something I rarely do, much less admit to doing. I was not really paying attention until my wife forced me to watch a segment. I am an old, set-in-his-ways, white guy and am rarely moved by anything other than my bowels…AND young people doing well. It is likely to be the retired teacher in me. I was moved this morning as I watched a group of young people of color singing about their belief in Baltimore and their white teacher explaining how they had managed to rise above the fear and hatred derived from the riots which occurred in the Baltimore Protest this past April. Their manner of elevation? Music…and opportunity.

To quote from their web site, “’Believe in Music’ is a Living Classroom’s program that aims to uplift underprivileged Baltimore City students academically, culturally, and spiritually, while promoting self-expression and community awareness through music education. Through the program, students will foster a deep connection with music in their own lives, and gain the tools to be able express their culture, struggles, and triumphs through music. It is our hope that students will come away from the program seeing music as a way to uplift themselves as well as their community.” This program began with seven students in a closet and has grown to over seventy-five per day…no longer in a closet. Someone is doing something right.

These kids are the same “thugs, savages and killers” TO BE who are maligned by racist trolls on social media and quite possibly by certain presidential candidates. These particular children were simply looking for an “opportunity.” This is something that those of us with “white privilege” believe they, the students, already have.

The word “opportunity” continues to resonate in my mind. I had opportunities. Those opportunities were part of my “white privilege.” Before you attack me, my grandparents began their married lives as famers “on the lien” and my parents were textile mill workers. My father actually drew his last breath on a weave room floor. I had a very humble upbringing and had to work to help put myself through college. No one gave me anything other than an “opportunity.” Despite my lack of privilege, I do understand white privilege has nothing to do with wealth…and lack of wealth and hard work does not eradicate it. White privilege has more to do with “opportunity” than with poverty and hard work. I doubt seriously a black kid with my grades or upbringing would have been given the time of day…much less an “opportunity.” According to the Oxford on Line Dictionary: privilege is “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.” White people take their privilege of being white for granted. Being able to take it for granted IS white privilege. We take it SO for granted we ignore the fact our white privilege actually exists. Because of ignorance we believe that all children have the same opportunities when in fact, many don’t. We further invoke all types of aging stereotypes to explain it away instead of working together to provide “opportunities” for all.

Being an old, set-in-his-ways, white man, I also believe that you can’t solve problems by throwing money at something hoping it will go away or by ignoring that a problem exists. I have had plenty of practice ignoring problems and they do not go away, they only get worse. I would ask the question, “What opportunities are we providing?” What opportunities actually help people rise above whatever holds us back, whether it be social, economic, racial or cultural? If some program doesn’t provide for those opportunities maybe we should re-think it and quit throwing money at it in favor of something that does.

We can pay now or we can pay later. There is going to be a price tag on good or bad government, good choices or bad. Investing “good money” in our youth and providing opportunities now may make it possible to invest less “bad money” in the future. I would rather our government invest our tax monies in opportunities that programs such as “Believe in Music” provide rather than investing in new prisons to house those who fall through the cracks because they have no opportunities. But everyone has equal opportunities, our government says so. No that is just our white privilege showing its racist petticoats.

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