The Definition of Privilege


The Definition of Privilege

after Michael Cirelli

Nathan and Davis had the wad of bills we stole from Davis’ father’s work coat

so when they led us down the block to Hop In we followed because we were

thirsty and had no idea the darker skinned of us would only minutes later end

up with their chests on the pavement, a stranger’s hands scaling their

waistlines and thighs while the lighter skinned of us would watch from the

sidewalk with our tongues pretzeled into knots like the barrels of cartoon rifles

and I was nine-years- old on the verge of a fifteen-year obsession to prove I

was not whatever it was that kept me off the pavement alongside Nathan and

Davis, first by quitting classical piano lessons and growing my hair out and

studying the blues then traveling across continents with groups of quasi-guilty

Christians to build schools in Peru or community centers in Israel or soccer

fields in Mexico or Whereverthefuck and then working up the nerve to rock

matching track suits every day in the upper lot at Pioneer High School and

basketball jerseys two sizes too-big and start drinking forties of Old English

malt liquor like Ice Cube with kids who lived in Eagle Point and North Maple

and reciting Too Short verses to my crush at the bus stop where I eventually

started smoking so much weed before school that I got suspended for

vomiting in the trash can during my third period English class and had to go to

summer school which I really used as an opportunity to distribute the first of

many mixtapes in my very serious rap career that I swore would be my “ticket

outta here” on which I used spoonfuls of words my mother didn’t understand

until I finally (not somehow) landed in college and registered mostly for

classes in which I was the only white person where a professor asked me to

share the earliest memory I had of race so I told the story of Nathan and

Davis and Hop In and the stranger’s hands and she asked why whiteness made

me so uncomfortable and I said It doesn’t but then I said Because I don’t ever

think about it and she replied Not having to think about something sounds like

a pretty amazing privilege and then I started seeing kids who looked just like

me (everywhere) whose whole lives were bending into knots like the barrels

of cartoon rifles just to prove they weren’t whatever it was that kept me off

the pavement when I was nine-years- old, which is to say guilty for something

they didn’t do which is to say I never owned slaves, I’d never say the N-word

– ever, which is to say invisible which is to say I don’t really have a race

which is to say the option of silence.

 2013 Adam Falkner


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