Over at Holy Post, Veggie Tales architect Phil Vischer has written an interesting testimony about the ways he’s uncovered white privilege in his life, particularly in the ways it aided the creation of his animation studio Big Idea Entertainment. In detailing his own family history, Vischer does an excellent job of something that can be very difficult — highlighting the various points where his efforts were aided by privilege.
“Did we work hard? Yes, I guess so. But lots of people work hard and don’t have nearly as much to show for it. So what is the missing factor?” Vischer writes. “The factor that may be even more important than the hard work? We were white.”
Vischer talks about inherited wealth (his great grandfather survived the Depression with his company intact, leading to a ripple effect for his descendants), a safety net (his mother got a house in a good school district when his father left) and well-connected family friends who were able to give Vischer access to their film production company. That company gave him the experience he needed to build Veggie Tales into the powerhouse of children’s entertainment that it was in the 90s and 00s. As Vischer writes, black people have been consistently, systemically blocked from enjoying the same advantages and opportunities that allowed him to thrive.
Way back in the 1930s the federal government decided that white families should be encouraged to own homes, and black families should not. 70 years of policies encouraging and underwriting white home ownership, and discouraging black home ownership have led to a profoundly inequitable America.
Today the average black household has 60% of the income of the average white household, but only 10% of the household wealth. Why? Because the #1 form of intergenerational household wealth in America is home ownership. Home ownership allows kids to go to college with home equity. Allows wealth to be passed through generations. Provides an economic backstop against calamity.
Which is exactly what happened in our case. When my family faced economic calamity, the house we owned in Muscatine, IA allowed us to replant ourselves in an upper-middle class community with fantastic schools and ample opportunity. It gave us a second chance.
And this is what we have done to black families over the last 70 years. We’ve prevented them from building the backstop to survive calamity. So how I tell my story is important.
The whole thing is a great example of how to work through your own privilege and hopefully model to others how to do it as well. Go check it out here.