As a note of introduction, I am a middle-class, middle aged, white male living in South Haven. I am fully aware that because of those aspects of myself, I am a person of privilege.
I have become more aware of this in the past week as I have been working with members of my family, who do not have these same attributes.
One member of my family has a voucher for section 8 housing. This is a wonderful program with significant benefits. As with many government programs, the paperwork and time to weave through all the aspects of the program is daunting. Having made it through that maze this summer, then comes the challenge of finding a place to live.
The difficulty of locating housing that will accept those vouchers is not easy. Even when you find a place that will accept a voucher, there are more conditions regarding the rental process than one can imagine. Getting some of these companies to return your phone call or email is difficult. When you have narrowed down the prospects to a rental agent (often a large corporation), then you have the application process. This can involve having access to all sorts of personal information and the ability to scan them into a digital format to submit to the company.
Along with the paper work, one needs to send an application fee. Some properties will take a debit or credit card, others a money order, and one such place required a cashier check from a bank.
I am fortunate to have a bank account. I also serve as a treasurer for a Scout group. I went to a financial institution in my town where I bank with the Scouts to make a deposit into the Scout account. To save me time, I asked for a cashier check of $35. Because I, nor my family member, did not have a personal account here, I could not get this check. I was dumbfounded. I was also frustrated because my family member does not have a bank account anywhere.
Fortunately, by making a trip to the bank where I do have an account, I was able to obtain the cashier check. Then, all of this had to be taken to the housing area in another town where said family member is applying. And now, we wait to see if accepted.
Housing is something I never have had to worry about. Even when my father’s place of business closed, we still had a house to live in. Paying the rent was a struggle, but we managed. I know we received food stamps for awhile until dad was able to find a new job. We got through those times. Some others find those times to be a real struggle.
In a similar fashion, trying to assist a different family member with a small loan, was also trying. When that member does not have a bank account, living often paycheck to paycheck, there is no credit history. By cosigning, I was able to assist. The dangers of that are significant, fortunately that situation worked well.
Lastly, being a white male, I do not worry about being randomly stopped on the street or while driving. Having family members who are African-American or bi-racial, they have been stopped; one, even while walking home in the middle of the afternoon in a different community.
As a straight white male, I have not been subjected to racial hatred. I have not experienced fear walking alone in my community. I have not been attacked physically or verbally because of my gender, my sexual orientation, my faith, or my race. I have not been treated differently because of my financial status. Others in my extended family and circle of friends have been.
When we hear talk of our nation being divided, we need to pause and ask ourselves why. If we don’t see the divide, it is up to us to question our own status.
All people are created equal. All lives matter. While those statements are true, many of us need to be reminded that not all people are treated as equals, or that their lives matter. That is a big reason for our divide. My hope is that people will consider the privilege they have and work so that all are treated fairly, with respect, compassion and dignity.
Jeffrey Dick lives in South Haven. His email is: email@example.com.