According to some douchebag named Tim Wise, I am the recipient of 12 to 13 years of institutionalized affirmative action as a result of my attending public school, and this is why I, as a member of the white establishment, am so fortunate.
When I graduated from high school, the school I graduated from was one of two in the entire county. Everyone from the east side went to one school, everyone from the west side of the county went to the other. We all attended the same classes, taught by the same teachers. I can’t see how there is any difference.
After high school, I joined the military and did six years there. When I got out, I was broke, but willing to work. I tried making it for a couple of years as a business owner, but we were soon technically homeless. My family and I lived in the storeroom of my business and we bathed in a 48 quart ice chest.
I took what little money we managed to scrape together and used it to rent a UHaul, then moved back to Florida. When I got there, I took a job in residential construction that paid $7.45 an hour. I spent 8 hours a day in the Florida summer heat, running electrical wire through roughed-out houses, taking home $950 a month to support a family of four. Our rent was $350 a month. The government told us that we wouldn’t qualify for public assistance as long as we were still married, so we got none.
Over the next 5 years, I moved jobs every time there was an opportunity to make more money: I worked at the airport repairing ground support equipment, at Disney repairing the electronic control systems on dancing chickens, at Sherwin Williams on paint manufacturing equipment, and at a stainless steel mill repairing stainless steel pipe manufacturing equipment. There were ups and downs. A few times, they hired me as a maintenance worker because they had a lot of broken equipment and then fired me as soon as I fixed everything that was broken. Still, I didn’t give up.
Each time I changed jobs, it was for more money. Over that 5 year period, I went from $7.50 an hour to $12 an hour, and finally to a salary of $30,000 a year. Then Bill Clinton signed a “most favored nation” treaty with China, flooding the market with cheap stainless steel, making it cheaper to import stainless steel products than it was to manufacture them, which put my employer out of business.
Finally tired of being laid off, and decided to take my volunteer firefighting occupation full time. I went to school, by working odd jobs during the day, and going to school at night. I graduated the fire academy and got hired. While I was in school, my wife and I got a divorce. Divorce is financially devastating, and the child support added up to about two thirds of my take home pay.
This was the poorest time in my life. I lost my car in the divorce, so I was running to work for a month before I could save enough for a bicycle. I lost 40 pounds that summer. After six more months of saving, I managed to buy a car at a buy here/pay here place. Now that I had a car, I was able to get a second job as a janitor, and then a third job as a lifeguard, to make ends meet.
Since then, I have earned 4 college degrees and I am getting ready to begin my masters degree. I did it without handouts, I did it without Pell grants, welfare, food stamps, or anything that I didn’t work for myself.
But hey, none of that was due to hard work and perseverance. It was all luck and ‘white privilege’ that got me here.