Always A Baby Step Away From American Disparity

Embed from Getty Images

I've seen great privilege.

I've ridden a ferry across New York Harbor to see Lady Liberty's iconic stature holding the weathered copper flame torch. I have seen the protected forests of Yosemite National Park in California. I have traveled across the vast waters of the Atlantic Ocean and marveled at the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. I have heard Big Ben's clock bell at Elizabeth Tower in London.

I have shot clay targets on expensive farms in northern Michigan as a teenager and have studied in schools with upper class tax dollars where high school worries ranged from letting chickens out in classrooms for the senior prank to complaining about the extra work in all of the AP courses students were in.

And while I gracefully assimilated to my various surroundings and life experience afforded to me by the hard work of my parents, conflict often followed me as a child of divorced parents with shared custody who lived very different realities. My time growing up was spent in upper middle class neighborhoods and inner-city Chicago.

Thus, I have seen great American disparity.

I've played Double Dutch near street curbs on Chicago inner city streets, using my grandma's white clothes lines for the rope as the traffic zoomed by. Traffic from cars often involved bass-filled beats blaring out of enhanced speakers through open windows on hot summer days while heavy foot traffic surrounding my friends and me openly catered to the needs of the various drug withdrawals.

I have walked to school in inner city Chicago with friends in snow and below zero temperatures, navigating around the neighborhood containing various obstacles along the way. I have watched my bright-eyed, once innocent elementary school friends who taught me to draw Bart Simpson and shoe sketches fall victim to neighborhood entrapment like early gun violence death, drug dealing, and prison. I've watched illiteracy go unnoticed without intervention and have seen schools with sub-par resources in comparison to my experiences in more affluent neighborhoods.

I have also experienced the air concentration I breathe change as my surroundings became more industrialized, poor, and minority abundant. Throughout my life, I inhaled societal cues that perpetuated the divide between the "haves" and "have nots"; To have, was like an "on/off" switch that was ignited by income restrictions and race that lead to lacking in the most essential areas that inform operating in society .

And as I continue to see the stark differences in realities for people based on income and race, it baffles me that there is the expectation for people to thrive in sinking environments like some communities in inner-city Chicago.

I have seen great privilege in a society where, for some, great disparity has always been just a baby step away.