Like many in the Northeast, I awoke this morning to the aftermath of another overnight blizzard. I work from home, so I’m not missing out on work or school. The snow for me is really just an inconvenience. It’s funny to me that as an adult, I hate the snow. When I was a child, there was nothing greater than waking up and running to the window, trying to gauge how many inches had accumulated, and impatiently awaiting the school closings on the radio. I loved snow, and I loved snow days. Now grown, I’m miserable and trapped inside.
It’s given me a lot of time to reflect. Snow days really are the perfect analogy for white privilege. I sat down with a cup of hot milk (I don’t drink cocoa because I find it to be racist), and I thought about ways in which I could interpret the same snowstorm so much differently than a child, or even a person of colored (POC).
The thing about snowflakes is that they’re all unique and special: just like people. But when you get a bunch of them together, the individuality is a technicality, and the uniqueness is a footnote. What you’re left with is an oppressive, homogeneous mass, impeding progress and presenting safety risks. What you get is white privilege.
White privilege, like snow, locks us in our homes. If you’re fortunate and white enough to have a nice home, that’s not so bad. Otherwise, you’d rather be at school. You’d rather be getting an education that might get you out of the situation you were born into. This isn’t true for white children, who don’t necessarily need an education. As a white person, I’m guaranteed a job at any company I want, with or without a college degree. When it snowed, the only thing I was missing out on at school was an opportunity to socialize. I had no problem quenching that thirst at the top of the sledding hill.
As white children, our parents could afford sleds. The fancy kinds, not just the tops of Rubbermaid garbage bins. We had toboggans–a word whose etymology I’m unaware of, but I’m sure we stole from the natives. Sledding is only fun for white children, because we don’t know what it’s like to experience actual economic decline. Going downhill for us is all just a big joke, because no matter what we do, things just get better for us.
Sledding is just one example of how our play is dictated by oppressive systems. We craft snow angels and snow men–ecclesiastical imagery and idolatry of gender roles. We simulate war with snowballs. How ridiculous would it be to create a gender neutral snow obelisk? Or perhaps instead of rolling and throwing a snowball, roll the snowball and use it to teach young girls the magic of physics and engineering as we calculate its growth over time:
Would that be so ridiculous? Would that be less fun? Unfortunately, because our children are so brainwashed by the patriarchy, it would be less fun. We’re programmed to reject progress, and we’re taught to just enjoy the snow. That is, of course, as long as the snow is white.
No one ever wants to play with the brown snow that collects in the gutters or sticks to our wheel wells. We call it slush–a term that’s also used in the entertainment industry to refer to unread and unsolicited scripts. Slush is the voiceless. Slush is the dirty and overworked, overlooked, and under-appreciated snow. There’s a reason it’s so dirty, too: the slush has been here longer than the fresh snow. It’s got experience and integrity. It’s probably been through several cycles of freezing and thawing, it’s the snow that has a story to tell–it’s the only snow that’s still unique.
We need to play with that dirty snow, and we need to use this snow day as an opportunity to remember that you should feel bad about being white.