Prince Jack

Jack

Jack grew up on a south-central Kansas wheat farm. He began driving an orangey-yellow, Minneapolis Moline Model U tractor the summer he turned seven years old—all red-headed, freckled, and snaggle-toothed. His dad, Pops, tied a rope around his waist so if he fell off, it would pull the hand clutch and, theoretically, stop the tractor. Jack’s now certain that would not have worked, and he would’ve just been drug across the field. (Yes, I know the word is actually dragged, but Jack, in his proper Kansas dialect, says drug.) (He also says nuke-yoo-ler instead of nuclear, but that’s a whole other issue.)

As a high-schooler—still red-headed and freckled, but now with better teeth (because he turned them himself every night) and sporting when he refers to as an “afro-mullet”—he drove a 1971 Camaro: gold, with a 10-foot whip antenna. (Actually, owned isn’t exactly correct. He still owns it. It just doesn’t have an engine.) Until Pops passed away in 2011 and renters came to live in his pink, asbestos-shingled house, Jack’s childhood bedroom still sported a black velvet, “Born to Drag” poster. Weekends consisted of treks to St. John, the uppity town eight miles west and two miles north (all measured in wheat fields), where he and his buddies would aggravate their rivals by blat-blating around the town square and then racing the cops back home. Plus Coors. Weekends were made for Coors.

Jack was handed very little. He was expected to work all through school; purchase his own car, fuel, and insurance; and pay his own way through college. (Can you imagine? I couldn’t.) Over time, he shifted his attention from the family farm to the local farm store, and before he’d even finished up at Barton County Community College, he found himself in the position of Parts Manager at a Peterbilt dealership—a title he’s had for more than 35 years.

The man can repair almost anything using duct tape and baling wire, a trick he learned keeping his family’s gasping, Allis Chalmers combine running summer after summer after hot, dusty summer. Our not-quite-as-handy friends call him for all manner of what-do-you-know-abouts and hey-do-you-think-you-could-help-mes: stubborn mailbox and laminate flooring installations, leaky plumbing and uncooperative furnaces. Our garage is stuffed with tools, most often used to help someone else.

Given his association with farm implements, hot rods, heavy trucks, and miter saws, you might assume that jack is stoic. Maybe even gruff. Au contraire. He’s the most tender-hearted person I know. He doesn’t cry watching Hallmark commercials; he cries talking about watching Hallmark commercials. He has a clear understanding of what actually matters, and he ‘s moved when he encounters those things.

He feigns arrogance to get a laugh:

What’re you up to, Jack? “Six feet and good lookin’.”

He gets clever with waitstaff:

What would you like, sir? “A bacon-cheeseburger. Leave the garden in the kitchen.”

He tries to confuse cashiers:

Need anything else today“Cash.”

And our new, favorite Jackism:

“You’ve heard of black magic? Well, this is Jack magic, baby.”

I cannot recall a single time in our nearly 14 years of marriage that Jack’s raised his voice to me. There’s been no name-calling or threatening. No mind games or manipulation. It took me a handful of years to relax into that reality. On occasions when I find myself in a gathering of only women and the conversation inevitably turns to the airing of matrimonial grievances, I’m helpless to participate. Jack does the laundry in our home. He’s happy to help with dishes, clean the floors, scrub the bathroom. I began graduate school full time three months into our new marriage, and he dove into his first-time parental responsibilities of my girls—not quite four and six years old—with aplomb. It was years before people realized he was “just” their step-dad.

In short, Jack is the male version of Mary Poppins: practically perfect in every way. Toolbox rather than carpet bag. K-Hits rather than “A Spoonful of Sugar.” Work pants and pocket knife rather than frilly apron and parasol. And although he’s fairly secure in his masculinity, I’m certain he wouldn’t appreciate the nickname “Mary.” What else could I call him, then?

Prince Jack.

12 Comments

  1. John, Friend, Former Neighbor   •  

    Well said, Kelley. 🙂 Jack’s a lucky guy to have a wife that appreciates him the way you do.

    One point though, and I make this in lieu of the rather lengthy reply I was making to your earlier post about racial segregation, economic injustice and white privilege. Instead of claiming “white privilege” for the blessings of the life you enjoy, like having a nice home in a nice neighborhood, maybe you could remember that much of that comes from 1) God, and the rest comes from 2) Jack, a man that, as you noted, “was handed very little.” Because Jack was handed very little materially, but well-imbued with character, he learned to make good choices with what he had. Let me just point out, hopefully not too pointedly, that if you lived in the worst run-down, crime-ridden neighborhood in East St Louis, your house would be painted and well-maintained, with a green, weed-free, well-kept lawn, and you and the girls would be well-protected–because that’s the kind of guy Jack is. And, dare I say, that neighborhood would, in time, become better and safer–because that’s the kind of guy Jack is. The fact that you have all that but in a nice, crime-free neighborhood has nothing to do with “white privilege”–it has everything to do with Jack, his character and his choices. 🙂

    • Kelley   •     Author

      John, I so wish you still lived across the street. If you did, I’d invite you over here, hand you a beer, and have a long conversation about this. Then, I’d invite you down to the Bridge and introduce you to 150ish people without homes–the overwhelmingly majority of whom are Black. No, it’s not all about race. But you can’t stand in that dining room and think white privilege doesn’t exist. I can’t, anyway.

  2. John, Friend, Former Neighbor   •  

    Kelley, there has always been poverty, even in cultures where there are no whites. There has always been homelessness, again, even in cultures where there are no whites. There are, in fact, whites who are as poor and as homeless as the 150 you mention. And that fact right there undermines the argument of “white privilege,” because “white privilege” assumes that whites are somehow advantaged simply because they’re white,regardless of any other factor. I googled “number of whites living in poverty in the US.” The first or top response was this:

    “Census figures reveal a stark contrast in the percentages of non-Hispanic whites living in poverty as compared to Hispanics and blacks. In 2012, 9.7% of non-Hispanic whites (18.9 million) were living in poverty, while over a quarter of Hispanics (13.6 million), and 27.2% of blacks (10.9 million) were living in poverty.

    http://www.nclej.org/poverty-in-the-us.php

    The numbers themselves state more whites and hispanics live in poverty than blacks, which undermines the argument of “white privilege.” However, what the writer of this statement did when s/he said “[c]ensus figures reveal a stark contrast in the percentages…,” and you might as well, is to give the percentages more credence than they deserve because they ignore skew and the related base-rate logical fallacy where when one ignores the relative sizes of population subgroups when judging the likelihood of contingent events involving the subgroups. My customers do this all the time. I’ll provide a report showing the performance of the network where one user has a 98% rate of success making calls and another user has a 50% success rate; the customer will point to the 50% as being indicative of a problem, that is until I point out the person who had the 98% success rate made 100 call attempts where two failed, and the person who had the 50% success rate made four call attempts where two failed. It’s the same number of failures, but different sizes of population subgroups.

    I so wished I lived across the street, too. This would make for a great small group topic of conversation because I believe that a fundamental premise of religion and “The Church,” albeit perhaps implied, is to help us make better choices. That’s where the Church can and does help–by encouraging us to make good choices. It takes a string of good choices to create success and often just one bad choice to create failure.

    • Kelley   •     Author

      Hey, John. I’m not even sure where to begin to respond to this, so it will take me a day or two. Just wanted you to know I saw it and I’m not intentionally ignoring it.

  3. John, Friend, Former Neighbor   •  

    No worries. Take your time.

    Here’s another thought–is “white privilege” really an expectation to follow certain cultural norms, which in this case happen to be established by whites (but arguably better met by Asians)?

    I was thinking about how I started my last post where I pointed out that poverty has existed in cultures without whites, which is kind of a “duh” thing to say. Maybe a better way to say it is that there have always been subgroups within a larger population that find themselves disenfranchised or “less enfranchised” than the majority. There are various reasons for this–race, religion, political ideology, culture… I’m sure there are more, but these are the few that came to mind.

    In some of these instances, race was a determining factor as to whether one enjoyed the privileges of the majority, or whether they were consigned to forever being a second-class citizen (or worse). Some would argue that this country was (or is) one example where race is a determining factor of who was in the privileged class and who was disenfranchised, and I would argue they were wrong because if that were true, all blacks would have been disenfranchised, and that simply isn’t true. We know there were free blacks who were part of the landed gentry, and there were even blacks who owned other blacks as slaves. There were also white slaves. Thus, race itself is not the basis of this so-called privilege.

    That said, if such a privilege exists, I think it’s based on cultural norms. For example, we hear of instances where black kids are ridiculed by their peers for “acting white” if they strive to do well in school, or even if they speak or dress in a way that somehow seems “white.” And this, my friend, is where the ideological rubber meets the road because there appears to be some notion in liberalism that attempts to stretch the idea of individual equality with cultural equality, that all cultures are morally equivalent. Thus, the liberal rationale is that a black kid doin’ the “black culture” thing–speaking what might kindly be called “ebonics,” who wears his pants around his knees and spends his days skipping school to hang out and shoot hoops (because he’s the next Jordan, don’tcha know)–is just as “equal” as the kid doing the “white culture” thing (according to some blacks), like going to school, making good grades, going to church, and holding down a job. The conservative rationale is that they’re not, nor should they ever be because one set of behaviors and choices is societally productive whereas the other is not. Yes, we’re born equal, but it’s our choices that create and maintain advantage, and none of that has to do with race per se. And, none of that is privilege–it’s earned.

    Anyway, just another log for the fire. 🙂

  4. Kelley   •     Author

    I really, really, really wish this comment thread hadn’t landed on the post about Jack . . . But here it is, so here’s where I’ll respond.

    I’m not going to go hunting down census data, because I ascribe to the Jack Philosophy of Statistics: figures lie and liars can figure. Each of us can find statistical “evidence” to support our opinions, so it seems pointless, in this type of discourse, to head that direction.

    Yes, many–if not all–cultures seem to be divided into the haves and the have-nots. My assertion is that in our country, some of that division can be attributed to race. I’m not saying that white privilege is *always* the cause, and I’m not saying white privilege is the *only* cause – and what I hear you saying is, “Not only is white privilege not the cause, but while privilege doesn’t even exist.” NONE of that is privilege, you say? I just . . . I can’t . . . I don’t even know where to go with that. Maybe it’s the absolutes you use that are troubling me. Maybe that’s why I find myself completely tongue-tied. Surely you and I must be talking about different things, and I wonder if you take a look at the list on pages two and three of this document if that will help the conversation along: https://www.isr.umich.edu/home/diversity/resources/white-privilege.pdf.

    Here’s something you said with which I agree: ” . . . it’s our choices that create and maintain advantage.” And here’s the qualifier I’d add with which I’m sure you *won’t* agree: We don’t all enjoy the same array of choices–or at the very least, the choices are more difficult and the positive outcomes seem less likely to occur. And I think some of that has something to do with race. Again–not all or only-but some.

    Maybe I should make this more specific: St. Louis has a poverty problem, and the great majority of folks in poverty are people of color. There’s an imbalance there–some of which, it seems, has developed because of systemic injustice based on skin color. If we’re going to do something about poverty, we have to be open to the entire set of contributing factors.

    I’m repeating myself. Listen, I don’t debate well. I’m easily backed into corners, and I’m intimidated by logic. I should probably get the hell out of the blog space for that reason. I just can’t seem to keep my mouth shut.

  5. John, Friend, Former Neighbor   •  

    Kelley, I think you’re getting upset because you’re feeling attacked. I’m certainly not trying to drive you from the blog space. I am, however, challenging you on what may be tightly held beliefs because I think they do you a disservice, and they do The Church a disservice. I also chose to respond in this thread because Jack is the closest and best example to illustrate that “white privilege” is a farce–his success has nothing to do with his whiteness.

    You can say “figures can lie and liars can figure,” but those figures come from a group on “your” side of the ideological fence–the National Center for Law and Economic Justice. I used those figures so as to not get into a “consider the source” argument on the numbers, and to show that poverty affects more whites (and apparently Hispanics) than blacks because it’s not really a black issue per se.

    It’s kinda funny (not “ha ha” funny, but I did kinda chuckle 😉 ) that you mentioned “absolutes” and McIntosh’s paper in the same paragraph. I was aware of McIntosh, and I can go down that list point-by-point and refute each as being overly broad to the point of being an absolute both in terms of a so-called privilege and in terms of being an implied indictment. For example, point #1 is overly broad so as to assume it’s a “white world” out there and whites can choose to associate only with whites. It’s also an implied indictment that suggests the existence of segregation, which is supposedly evil because so much of the civil rights movement was oriented toward desegregation. At which point I say, “uh, hello! This is why you see black neighborhoods and white neighborhoods and Hispanic neighborhoods and Asian neighborhoods–people naturally auto-segregate (aka self-segregate).” Liberalism as an ideology is ok with auto-segregation when it comes to, say, black student groups, or in McIntosh’s case, women’s studies programs at all-female schools. I could go on, but I’m going well beyond the “consider the source” argument I’m making here. McIntosh invented “white privilege” to go hand-in-hand with “white guilt,” both of which assume blacks are the victim of white oppression. Maybe once upon a time, but now it’s merely an excuse.

    I don’t subscribe to excuses like “victimhood” when it comes to our lot in life. Poverty is a circumstance of our choices. It’s true that we all don’t have the same array of choices (e.g. playing golf professionally is not a choice available to me due to my lack of skill), but we all have the same basic choices. Those choices can be distilled down to two–1) control your impulses and 2) follow the rules. Everything else follows from that, be it success in school, or on the job, or in life in general.

    The problems of St Louis are no different than the problems of Detroit, or Philadelphia, or any other city. I do think politics plays a role, so yes, it may be systemic. However, the “problem politics” happen to be those that treat racial populations as victims and thus entitled to the “beneficence of government” (as if such a things exists). Unfortunately, that kind of thinking sabotages the individual’s ability to succeed because it undermines the value of impulse control and it calls into the question the necessity to follow rules because it questions the fairness of justness of those rules. That kind of thinking led Detroit since 1962–look at where it got them.

    Again, I’ll point to The Church as a means of remedying poverty, not as a means of wealth redistribution, but to help people make good choices. Granted, The Church needs to go beyond offering a message of hope to offering practical advice, because I think it can be offered that some people don’t recognize when they have an impulse to control and others may not know the rules in order to follow them. I think that’s a symptom of disinterested parenting, where kids are left to fend for themselves or to be raised by other kids. I guarantee you that behind every successful person, regardless of color, there was an engaged parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle who drove them to consistently apply the two choices I mentioned in a positive way. That’s what’s been lost and what The Church can help reintroduce to those communities.

    Anyway, I’m repeating myself, too, so I’ll leave it at that. 🙂

  6. Kelley   •     Author

    Hey, John.

    I’m not upset because I’m feeling attacked. I’m upset because I’m feeling discouraged. Terribly so.

    Jack’s success may have “nothing” to do with his whiteness, but that doesn’t mean white privilege doesn’t exist. (Incidentally, he agrees with me on that–which may frighten you, I realize. I’m luring him to the dark side, you see. Bwahahahaha. 🙂 )

    I’m not sure why this had to turn into a liberalism v. conservatism thing. I’m just one human being with convictions and opinions and heartaches; I’m interested in solutions, and I’m not going to cherry-pick information from one or another source because they happen to be on “my” side. I might be tempted to, but I won’t.

    You make interesting points about auto-segregation. I’m curious how you engage in conversations about white-flight and gentrification.

    And I STILL don’t know how to explain away the fact that most of the homeless folks in STL–or Philly or wherever–are people of color. Something is wrong.

    Sure, poverty is a circumstance of choices–and I’ll repeat myself here–not all of which are readily available to each person. “Control your impulses” and “follow the rules” are fine. But kids don’t have much of a choice on where they go to school and the quality of education they receive. And education is HUGE–the academic part, the social part, the mentoring part, the hope part. Also, people experience abuse and trauma that can have life-long, devastating consequences. So if they “allow” those experiences to negatively affect their quality of life, you’re going to say they’re crying “victim”? That makes me want to throw up in the corner..

    Can you at least agree that some people have more difficult access to even those basic opportunities that guarantee success?

    As for the church’s role–I think you’re right, but I think there’s so much more than that. Acts 2 offers a clear picture of the “model” church; it includes generosity, and I don’t read any strings attached.

    I have to go–I haven’t had a chance to even proofread this, so I reserve the right to disagree with anything I’ve just written. 🙂

  7. John, Friend, Former Neighbor   •  

    Kelley, it’s a liberal v. conservative thing because liberals like McIntosh made up “white privilege.” Why? I think Laura Hollis, Notre Dame law professor nails it:

    “First, to use the left’s parlance, “white” is purely a political and social construct. People often use the term to mean Americans whose ancestors hailed from Europe. But the conflation of people from different European countries is a distinctly American phenomenon. Spend some time in Europe and it’s quickly evident that Belgians don’t see themselves as just like Italians any more than the Portuguese equate themselves with the Polish. (Even here in the United States, intermarriage between people from different European countries has tended to be a second- or third-generation occurrence.) “White” also seems to be a fluid epithet. George Zimmerman infamously became a “white Hispanic” (who knew?) as soon as he shot Trayvon Martin.

    But the “privilege” part of “white privilege” is the more insidious of the two words.

    Let’s face it — the race racket is a tougher sell these days. Slavery was abolished 150 years ago. Jim Crow was 80 years ago. Race baiters are now dealing with multiple generations of Americans who are “civil rights babies,” having grown up in the 50 years since the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. Millions of us have been raised to see racial equality as common decency. We never saw separate water fountains or segregated schools. We believe in equal opportunity and learned Martin Luther King’s speech in grade school. 40 million white voters believed that King’s dream was realized when Barack Obama was elected president of the United States in 2008.

    The “racist!” accusation has little punch in this climate. So something new had to be devised. Something that didn’t depend on one’s actions, like the charge of “discrimination,” or even one’s thoughts, like “racism.” Something that, like the air we breathe, is both everywhere and impossible to see.

    “White privilege” to the rescue.”

    http://www.westernjournalism.com/claims-white-privilege-erode-responsibility/#cqGXS9X1KvdY6TrE.97

    Hollis puts a finer point on it than I might, but identity politics is solely of the purview of the Left, hence liberal v. conservative.

    I’m also a little confused because your post was about poverty and the conditions of certain neighborhoods, but now we’re talking about homelessness. Nevertheless, that still affects more whites than blacks and more men than women, so to say it’s unique to blacks would be to ignore the larger problem.

    http://homeless.samhsa.gov/ResourceFiles/hrc_factsheet.pdf

    Now that fact sheet points out that the homeless in places like New York and Philadelphia (and probably St Louis, for that matter) were predominantly black and male. That has more to do with demographics than “the system” in these cities pickin’ on black guys, or “white privilege,” because blacks live in higher concentrations in cities like New York (25%), Philadelphia (39%), Detroit (82%), Chicago (32%) and St Louis (47%) than the nation as a whole (13%). It’s interesting to also look at the poverty levels of New York (20%), Philadelphia (27%), Detroit (39%), Chicago (22%), and St Louis (27%) as compared to the nation as a whole (15%). Of course, I could point out that all these cities have been governed almost exclusively by Democrats for the last 60 years–so much for the beneficence of government.

    Anyway, I certainly can’t change your mind if Jack can’t. I think that for as much as we examine and test our spiritual beliefs, we should examine and test our ideological beliefs. That said, I don’t subscribe to the notion of belief based on faith alone, as we’re given the capability of discernment. Just as I see and agree with Mies van der Rohe that “God is in the details,” I also believe the details as evidence tell us the truth. That’s why I think the way I do.

    Oh, you asked “[c]an you at least agree that some people have more difficult access to even those basic opportunities that guarantee success?” If you’re talking education, then my answer is no–primary education in this country is compulsory, so we all have equal access to it. If you want to argue that not all education (schools, teachers, etc) is equal, then I would agree, but that inequality isn’t an excuse. You can have “gold-plated” schools like the Robert F. Kennedy Community School in Los Angeles, which cost $578 million to build ($140,000 per student) and still have a 50% dropout rate. Likewise, you can be a failing student, a black kid in a Detroit inner-city school in the 60’s, the product of a broken home whose mother dropped out of school in the third grade and worked three jobs to support her sons and still become Dr. Ben Carson, pediatric neurosurgeon who’s worth about $10 million. The difference is Ben Carson’s mother, who was functionally illiterate, took the responsibility of educating her sons out of the hands of the school and insisted her sons read two books per week and write book reports. That sparked his interest in education and turned him around from being a failing student to an accomplished student who went on to Yale and Johns Hopkins. It was a matter of making good choices.

    • Kelley   •     Author

      Hey, John. You seem to think I’m unwilling to consider positions different than my own, and that’s just not so. I’m considering everything you’ve said, you’re encouraging me to do more research, you’re challenging me to think differently about a couple of things. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll come to agree with everything you’ve said, primarily because I think with my heart, and I’m not about to change that. (I don’t think I could if I tried.) Still, that doesn’t mean I can’t incorporate more “heady” ideas. I’m not sure what else to say, other than I’m just not willing to shrug my shoulders and say, “Well, it is what it is,” and I might drive you a little bonkers as I think and feel out loud.

      • John, Friend, Former Neighbor   •  

        I don’t mean to imply you’re close-minded, Kelley. Not at all. But I think we have dramatically different approaches in terms of how we’re influenced, and I recognize that what I find influential may not be influential to you. That’s what I mean by saying I can’t change your mind if Jack can’t, since he knows what or how you’re influenced, whereas I don’t.

        • Kelley   •     Author

          I should clarify: Jack agrees with me on very little. 🙂

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