I live in The South. I have for decades now. And I love The South. You will never find me living above The Mason Dixon Line again. Ever.
I tell people who ask — “No, I wasn’t born here, but I got here as soon as I could.” Because this is where I grew into Real Ann. And the weather. Oh, and North Carolina Beaches. So yeah, going nowhere.
But I’m not here to talk about The South. I’m here to talk about White Privilege. Specifically MY Privilege. Because mine is particularly interesting.
It is rather related to my zip code — I doubt I would have quite so much of it heaped upon me if I was still a Yankee. But in The South — I am Everyone’s Granny or Momma.
I am addressed as Ma’am all the time.
Doors magically open for me if I pause on a threshold.
People — mostly young men — let me in front of them in line.
But here in lies the most powerful bit of all — I am the least likely of ANY demographic in this county to be pulled over or harmed in any way by law enforcement.
In fact, I have been stopped for speeding twice in my RED car in the twenty plus years I’ve lived here. Both occasions I was given warnings. The one time it had to be a written warning because of something or another and the deputy was beside himself apologizing about the fact he couldn’t just let me go because computers were now involved. However, if I behaved myself for six months the written warning would come off my record as if it never happened — Ma’am. He assured me.
Now. Let’s think about that.
Because when we talk about White Privilege it is often situations just like this which come to mind. The ability of a Human to flow through society without a second thought to the consequences of their actions. That is what being an Old. White. Woman. in The South will get you.
Because No One wants to put Momma or Granny in jail. Or give her a ticket. Or let her stand in line for too long. Or open her own door. Or otherwise upset her.
I never think about being in harm’s way simply by existing. Or being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Law enforcement and the public at large are never going to assume I’m guilty of anything simply by looking at me.
Other Humans do not have that going for them.
I am the Yin to the Yang of a Young. Black. Man.
He is the demographic who gets blamed for EVERYTHING which he might be in close proximity to. In our society — but especially in The South. Unless some Old. White. Woman. vouches for him. Roll credits.
Is THAT right? Oh fuck, no! But anyone who wants to argue White Privelege with me — Let me just show you my Lifetime Membership Certificate— it came with my AARP Card and an information packet regarding my Social Security benefits. Everyone out there assumes I’ll live long enough to collect. Mortality rates for Young. Black. Men. are not so optimistic with unintentional injury and homicide being ranked as #3 & #5 as causes of death.
My Old. White. Woman privilege — I got to be OLD.
As I ponder this — another thought occurs to me. What if Old. White. Women. Privilege is our SuperPower? Not something to be ashamed of but something to use — like The Force? Could we change The South? The Country? The World? It’s worth a try.
What’s the use of having a Super Power if you don’t deploy it?
Old. White. Women. We are a cross between Miss Daisy and Julia Sugarbaker.
Harmless. Sweet. But — Do Not Cross them.
Smiles. Nods. And then — does whatever the hell they please.
Perhaps Southern Men are already innately aware of all this about their Mommas and their Grannies. Perhaps it’s coded into their DNA — some type of self-preservation gene. So they just say Ma’am a lot and try not to upset Old. White. Women.
Because if I am going to be treated as a Steel Magnolia… I will use both the Steel AND the Magnolia.
Never, ever, underestimate a Sugarbaker woman and our ability to rage if you do happen to be foolish enough to rile us up.