I had an unusual upbringing. My parents were both mentally ill, homeless, and addicted to drugs. My siblings and I slept in a three drawer dresser (one drawer for each of us) in the back of a van my parents drove up and down the country. When my dad got too violent, maybe taking a knife to my mother, maybe tying her up and striking her, we would stay in a women’s shelter or a homeless shelter. Not for too long, though, because there was a constant need to outrun Social Services and the police.
The psychotic, dangerous road trips would always end with my father in jail, my mother in a mental institution, and my siblings and me in group homes or foster homes. These bastions had their own drawbacks, namely physical, sexual, and verbal abuse, but they were a short reprieve from hunger and homelessness.
Notably, I lived in a condemned house in Detroit in a neighborhood called 7 Mile in the 1990s. I have greeted a box of government cheese with tears of relief.
I have accepted that I would die from exposure to the elements, hunger, or violence more times than I can count, not fully understanding to this day how I am still alive. I have spent nights in homeless shelters, days on the streets, slept on snow-covered city benches and in abandoned buildings, feared for my life, and prayed to die instead of living another day in undignified hardship.
There is not a person on this planet that could call my life easy so believe me when I say:
if I can understand white privilege, so can you.