Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Follow Kari's Trip to GA

White Girl Goes to Florida

Last night began with a nice little bit of time in schmancy lounge my husband's job buys him a membership to; the World Club in the Seattle Airport.

After my red eye flight (in first class because there was room there) and my nice layover in Minneapolis with a friend, I flew into Miami. Flying stand-by you have to be super flexible. The flight to Fort Lauderdale was just packed with folks, and the flight to Miami had a little room, so I went to Miami. I know that there is a train that takes you right to Fort Lauderdale. I know that some people don't feel comfortable on the train, but hey, I've taken it with my kids even years ago when they were little, and it didn't bother me.

Today I got off my flight in Miami, grabbed a little lunch and headed for the bus that takes you to the Tri Rail station. It was hot, super hot and I waited with a bunch of other folks about 20 minutes in the heat for the bus. Then it was another 15 minutes for the train. No air conditioning, not even real shade. Just waiting in the heat.

Man, the train was dirty with windows smeared with grit and grime. Seemed like all the tourists went to the upper deck and the locals stayed on the lower. That felt creepy to me, so I stayed on the lower level. As we rocked and rolled down the track thru Miami you could see buildings with caved in roofs, flat roofed apartments with yards of dirt littered with old cars and old furniture. There were neighborhoods with three ramshackle churches and nothing else--kids riding their bikes down the middle of the street because there were no cars. There were no businesses, just shut up apartments that looked tired and sorry.

I felt my white privilege all over my face. And my class advantage dripped off me with the sweat.

As we went north the graffiti got neater and more creative. Things were tidy and painted, more businesses open, less warehouse for rent signs out. I could tell when we'd crossed over when there was a tall attractive wall between the train track and the life on the other side. Sure, there was still graffiti, but now it was 3-D lettering and whole landscape panels on the wall.

Then came golf courses and suburban looking neighborhoods with lots of nice cars waiting for the train gates to lift. It was like you'd crossed over from East to West Germany back when they were separated by barbed wire. There was no barbed wire here, I don't think you need it. Privilege flies you right over pretty much any fence anyone can build, and lack of privilege, well, doesn't take a fence to keep people down when no one knows where to look for the step that goes up.

After another bus and a taxi ride, I was finally at my hotel. I checked in and chatted with the desk attendant about how tired we both were. She was kind and walked me thru all the perks--managers reception with free cocktails (not for me, I'm a youth sponsor this year) free made to order breakfast, free high speed internet because we have "gold elite" status on our frequent hotel-stayer program. And when I opened the door to my suite I was blown away. I chose this place because it was one of the cheaper options, had a free breakfast and maybe I could eek out a free appetizer dinner from the nightly reception, and it would give me free internet because of the gold status. But the room blew me away. Our whole youth group could stay here. Hey, half our CHURCH could stay here!

But I can stay here because I know these things, I know to ask these things. I know to sign up for these things. And although in my early married years I painted apartments to pay rent and once even had a garage sale to pay rent, I now have the class and I've always had the color privilege that allows me to access all of this.

Wildest of all, as I sit here in extreme comfort, there was a knock on the door.... a gift for the gold member.

I hope this week helps me figure out what to do with all of this. Well, not the popcorn in the little goody bag. That I'm eatin'! But the other stuff, the other stuff.

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