Very cool about your son. My youngest is now 13 and not my “son” anymore :-) And you didn’t “mess up” anything… I always try to respond to folks who take the time to leave a comment or question, though I definitely have an equal amount of followers who appreciate my content as much as those who absolutely detest my content. I’m used to the criticism, I can handle it. A lifetime of performing on stage in musical theatre built my character for that — and my kids as well.
I suspect that certain people in your group would see tall, white, athletic, cis-gendered, ambitious Catholic boys and assume they had life handed to them. They’d want to hamstring them so others could compete. Never mind that the boys are kind, respectful, generous, have a strong moral compass and are willing to outwork everyone around them. It doesn’t fit the narrative that their ascension is due to competence and character, made possible by parents willing to sacrifice their egos, impulses and incomes to provide a dependable, disciplined, two-parent home.
I’d hope nobody in my group would “see” the analysis you suspect; the people in my group, for the most part, understand what privilege does and does not mean.
The connection I most often see people failing to understand about the concept of privilege (especially white privilege, or male privilege, or cis/het privilege — or the intersectionality of any/all of them) is that privilege doesn’t mean someone never faced tremendous hardships or obstacles in life. It doesn’t mean that someone didn’t grow up disadvantaged, poor, or didn’t sacrifice and work their asses off to get where they are in life. Unfortunately, that’s a common misconception about what privilege means. I wrote a piece that explores that more in-depth called The Kind of Racism You Don’t Even Know You Have. Here’s an excerpt from the part about white privilege:
If you’re white, even if you’re not an overt racist, even if you know in your heart that you don’t ever discriminate against people based on the color of their skin, you still benefit (through no choice of your own) from the way systems and institutions are set up to function in this country. This is what’s meant by the term white privilege. If the sound of that phrase makes you sigh, don’t worry. White privilege doesn’t mean what it sounds like it means; it’s not an insult. It’s just a fact. It doesn’t mean that you are “favored.” It doesn’t mean that everything in life was handed to you free, that you’ve had a carefree and lazy life, or that you didn’t pull yourself up by the bootstraps to get where you are now. It also doesn’t assume you’re in a financially stable, mentally healthy, happy part of life right now, either.
White privilege, as famously described by Peggy Macintosh, is “an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in every day, but about which I am meant to remain oblivious.” If you’re white in America, by virtue of the color of your skin, you were born with a few advantages not afforded people of color. You’re also socially conditioned to be unaware that you have privilege (again, not your fault). White privilege means that you can live your life and you won’t be disadvantaged because of the color of your skin.
People who truly understand privilege wouldn’t look at your boys and assume anything about their character, work ethic, integrity, or inherent goodness.
Your boys sound a lot like all three of my kids: an 18 year old son, an almost 17 year old daughter, and my 13 year old trans kid. My husband and I are not wealthy, we’ve had tremendous struggles in life with health and other ongoing issues, but our kids are pretty darn amazing, authentic, and resilient. Also kind, intelligent, and so on. Our older two both began working after-school jobs at age 16 and both still have the same jobs they started with, though both are such hard workers they’ve each been promoted & recognized for their amazing customer service. Their work ethic is amazing. Our son graduated recently with a 4.3 GPA and has started college, and our daughter makes excellent grades as well.
On top of it all, they have fulfilling social lives with friends and significant others. This is not to say they never face obstacles and hardships! Quite the opposite. But they deal with things — honestly, things way more mature than I’d have dealt with at their ages — tremendously well. My husband and I always joke about how much better they turned out than the both of us combined, and we don’t know how this even happened.
When I talk or write about social privilege and feminism and dismantling the patriarchy, it’s not at the expense of anyone in particular, and it doesn’t mean that I hate men, or my fellow white people, or cisgender, heterosexual people. It’s just historical fact that our country was set up this way (as a patriarchy) and it continues to run this way, and it hasn’t really worked out so well or equitable for everyone involved. That’s the part where I — and others like me — want to see a change.
You assume my “ideology” doesn’t allow me to see or believe how nuanced and wonderful the world is, but that’s a stereotypical assumption of liberals in general. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m personally fortunate enough to have truly grown, over time, in my mindset. I was once the person who’d laugh at political correctness, believed that reverse racism existed, and thought “privilege” was a slur. Because I opened myself up to reading literature by black and marginalized writers — stuff that made me uncomfortable — I ultimately learned so much more than I’d thought possible. Same thing with having a trans kid. I’m fortunate to see exactly how nuanced and wonderful the world is every single day.