I come from a very rural, very white community in Southern Indiana. I LITERALLY went to Kindergarten in a barn, and my town still has a standing "hanging tree". At 44 years old, I vaguely remember a black family moving into my town and having their house burned down. The father and daughter were both killed, and the mother and son escaped. No one talks about it. The man who runs the only store in my town was very excited that Donald Trump was going to take care of the "coon problem" in the White House when he was elected. He actually said those words to me. He also just ran for a political office and nearly won. The county I live in was the epicenter for one of the biggest HIV outbreaks in our nation's history. We made national news. We had 215 cases of HIV in a county of less than 24,000 in just a few months in 2015-2016. It was strange to see BBC reporters in our little po-dunk county.
I can remember my aunt spanking me for playing with a little black boy at a military base in North Carolina when I was about 6. I never understood what I did wrong. When my dad asked why my aunt had spanked me, she told him it was because I had taken the boy's Hot Wheels. That was just not true. He and I were playing with the cars together, but she was disgusted that I would play with him and even used that dreaded "N word". I did not even meet another black person until I was 17 years old. I had run away from home and ended up in a suburb of Atlanta. What a culture shock that turned out to be. I was determined that just because I was FROM Scott County Indiana that didn't mean I needed to be OF Scott County, Indiana. I made a lot of friends, both white and non-white, while I was there for a few short months, and felt like I had come away from that experience a much more enlightened person.
Scott County Indiana is a largely Appalachian community, even though we are not in the Appalachians. Most of the people who live here have direct ancestors from the coal mines of South East Kentucky. There are two classes of people here, the "well-to-do" and the rest of us who don't matter. We do not have a black community, as only .2% of the population is black (up VERY much from when I was young). However, we DO have systematic poverty. While 4.7% of the US population under 65 draws a disability check, 13.6% of the population under 65 of this county is disabled. Many of these folks are part of generations of people who draw what is referred to here as a "crazy check". They draw disability due to a lack of education and various mental and physical health disorders. I myself was on disability for 11 years due to degenerative disk disease. I used that time to get an education so that I could teach my children to make a living rather than live in poverty. I now work for a community mental health organization, mostly with those in extreme poverty.
I will not pretend that the plight of these folks can even begin to compare to the systematic racism in this country. I have been finding that opening the eyes of those in this area to the systematic poverty of this area has been helping to show some folks how privilege works. Many of those in this area are more of the "All lives matter" movement than the "Black Lives Matter". I have had countless debates on social media about privilege. I am finding the majority have the privilege of not knowing that they are privileged. I am also finding that providing research, personal experiences, and intelligent conversations has been helpful in helping promote growth. This is true not just for those who I am debating with, but also largely for those who are listening. I guess my question is what is working for others to open people's eyes to their own privilege, and is there a better way to convince people with inherent racism that Black Lives Matter?