Uh, privileged much? I had to ask, reading Kevin Yoder’s Facebook announcement that he’ll be serving as the co-chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pre-K Caucus.
“Every child in every cul-de-sac in America deserves the same opportunities to succeed,” his announcement read. The comments quickly started, with people ruthlessly pointing out that cul-de-sac is generally an address of privilege.
Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I assume the congressman’s words were chosen in an effort to be quaint and he, in fact, intends to watch out for preschoolers who live on through streets, thoroughfares and dead ends that have no circular roundabout for the neighbors. I’d venture a guess that he cares just as much as those kids. It was his “Let them eat cake,” moment.
Whether or not his politics are mine, he’s probably a nice guy. Right?
But for the love of Mike, those who are running these fancy bipartisan caucuses need to exercise some social fluency.
Social fluency is a new term to me, but one we all should be deeply concerned with. Once upon a time, only the media had big, booming voices that could permeate every home. Some could speak — some like Congressman Yoder — hope that the media would report their words. But these days, the media has gone social, and every single one of us has the ability to put some words out there and have them reach all the way around the globe.
And if we’re going to speak to those on the other side of the globe, we have to think outside our cul-de-sac and understand who the heck is out there.
The first time I recognized the ugliness that privilege, translated to social illiteracy, was listening to Laura Ingraham (for the first and last time). It’s been years. I vaguely remember that my now 14-year-old was in his carseat.
I don’t remember the overarching theme of her show, but she was talking about school uniforms, and the fact that her kids attended a school without a stringent dress code. Her son wanted to wear jeans, but she harped about how she insisted that he wear khakis, despite the fact that his peers showed up daily in humble, denim dungarees.
“You’re better than that,” she told him.
My mind was flooded by memory — the damp air of a school bus on a cold, rainy day. Seeing a girl, one who’d always been nice, who lived in the poorer neighborhood near mine, sitting across the aisle, her hand covering a bleach spot on her jeans.
“What happened?” I asked. She explained she’d spilled bleach on them. (Uh, duh.)
Day after day, she wore those jeans. Day after day, she covered that bleach spot with her hand — the spot that gave away the fact that she only owned one pair of jeans.
I wanted to scream at Ingraham: “Some kids only have one pair of pants! And they’re jeans! Don’t you dare tell your son that he’s ‘better’ than those people. And don’t you DARE tell America that they have the right to judge without ever sitting next to a girl who hid the bleach spot on her jeans, EVERY SINGLE DAY.”
It’s the information age. The age of open, wide-spread, and sometimes reckless communication. We must enter this knowing our place, and understanding our place in terms of social fluency. The bubble has burst.