Sitting on my office is a list of lessons gleaned from All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. I’d like to add one lesson that I think also has some application for white privilege: Scoot Over.
When we’re in kindergarten and sitting in the circle, if someone else comes, we scoot over to make room. Magically, there’s always enough room. We can always make the circle bigger, we just need to scoot over. And I think in the context of white privilege, scooting over makes a lot of sense. No one is asking you to give up your privilege (because you really can’t anyway), but we are asking that you scoot over and allow other people in the circle. Pay more attention (and money) to authors of color. Publishers, give BIPOC authors a real shot. Those of you who have the ability to hire, give BIPOC a real shot. Those of you who educate, just ask yourself real quick if the punishment you’re about to mete out to that Black boy is the same punishment you would mete out to a white child.
How else can you scoot over? Many of you reading this have the ability to hire vendors. Your company needs widgets, software, a law firm, an accounting firm. An easy phrase I keep in mind is from Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing”: “Hey, Sal. How come you got no brothers on the wall here?” In the movie, Sal is the owner of the neighborhood pizzeria in Brooklyn where the action takes place. Sal is Italian-American and only has Italian-American heroes on the wall. Bug Out, an African-American patron, points out that although mostly Black people patronize the pizzeria, Sal doesn’t have any “brothers on the wall.”
When I need to hire someone to do anything – anything – I ask if Sal has any brothers on the wall. Sometimes this will depend on place, business size and industry, but I live in Atlanta, Georgia. I don’t see any reason why larger companies can’t have any people of color in meaningful positions. I look for African Americans, South Asians, Hispanics, East Asians, people of Middle Eastern descent. The lack of brothers and sisters on the wall is not an automatic disqualifier, but it’s just as important a deciding factor to me as any other. I use my economic privilege to encourage businesses to scoot over.
Are there practices or traditions at your children’s school that exclude parents who work outside of the home during the day? Is there a way to scoot over? Can any occurrences of those traditions happen in the evening? On a weekend? As caregivers of children, we are creative people. Let’s put our heads together and think about how we can scoot over and let more children and their parents in the circle.