Pubdate: Sun, 01 Oct 2017
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)
Copyright: 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Author: Kate Boccia


I am a pretty quintessential middle-class American woman. My ancestry
is Danish and English-maybe some Scottish somewhere. I'm just enough
of a WASP to have some ancestors who fought in the Revolution. But I
certainly didn't feel superior to the blue-collar Italian and Irish
kids in the lower-middle-class neighborhood where I grew up - in fact,
I would have laughed at the notion that, merely as white people, any
of us were privileged. I reserved that term for the rich kids living
in big houses across town. In my book, privilege meant you had a lot
more than my family had.

We weren't exactly poor though, and I was taught to have compassion
for those less fortunate than me. But it was mostly an abstract idea,
a slightly sterile empathy felt from a distance that rarely had to be
put to the test. And those I pitied didn't really include criminals or
drug addicts. I was raised with the same belief still held by most
white people in this country; that the criminal justice system is
by-and-large fair, and if you're in jail, it's probably because you
deserve to be. I knew that people of color were somewhat more
skeptical about the system's fairness, but didn't ask too many
questions as to why. That would have involved imagining their
experience at a much-deeper level, and probably questioning the
received beliefs I thought of as objectively true. Only when my
personal reality was shattered did I realize all of my assumptions
were built on quicksand.

Oct. 24, 2012 is when everything changed. That was the day my son went
to prison. As one of the new friends I made in line waiting to visit
him later told me: "Honey, that's the day you became black."
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