I was particularly intrigued by the Jan. 30 column “What is white privilege?” because of a lunch conversation I recently had with friends. One friend told us about a dialogue she had with a man complaining about federal assistance for the disadvantaged. His familiar mantra was that he had “made it all by himself” and “all that those people receiving assistance needed to do was to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”
She congratulated him on being a model of self-sufficiency, but said that she had four “disadvantages” that kept her from making similar claims:
“First, I had a hot breakfast every day and food at every meal. Second, I always had a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in. Third, I always had medical care; when I was sick, I was taken to a doctor. Fourth, I always attended good schools, resulting in a good education, and had supportive parents who knew the importance of education for me.”
She told the man it is difficult to pull bootstraps if one doesn’t have boots and that none of us succeeds “all by ourselves.”
All of us were white, had retired from successful careers and had benefited from the “disadvantages” our friend listed and additional ones mentioned in the column.