Have you ever talked to a kid on Halloween, at the end of the night when their pillowcase is bursting with Reese’s cups and Starburst? When their feet are tired and their eyes are sparkly from the exhaustion and the excitement of eating as much candy as they can fit into their bellies for just one night?
Their costumes are falling off, and their make up is smeared, and they are so proud. They earned that candy. They earned it!
Do you know how many houses they had to go to? Do you know how heavy their bag is? Their mom didn’t even let them run through the lawns! They had to go up and down a million side walks, and they had to say thank you even when the house was giving out nothing but raisins and dimes! It was hard work, and this candy? They have worked for it, and that makes it all the sweeter.
But did you know that there are kids who walk just as far, whose feet hurt just as much, who worked just as hard on their costume and they come home with half the candy.
How is this possible?
Let’s start with the costumes. I wasn’t rich growing up by any means, but I was never expected to pay for my own costume. And when we couldn’t afford it my mom sewed me the most incredible Snow White costume out of old bed sheets (true story) and I wasn’t 8. I was 18. I had a perfect childhood. I know. But not every kid has parents that can help them with the cost or the labor of a costume. Some kids simply do not have access to a costume. That happens, that is real. Don’t be mean to a child with no costume at your door. They know. They already know they are not in costume and they are already sad about it.
But let’s say two kids each have twenty bucks for a costume and are both dying to be a Ninja Turtle, and good news! The Ninja Turtle costume is only twenty dollars on Amazon! But kid A has a mom who has Amazon Prime and kid B does not. Even with the same twenty bucks, only kid A has access to the Ninja Turtle costume, because he has access to Amazon Prime.
But lets say everyone is suited up and ready to get that candy! Kids in neighborhoods where not everyone has extra money for Halloween candy walk just as far, but only get to knock on every third door. That is sad.
No problem! You say, the kid in the sucky Halloween neighborhood can just trick-or-treat in the festive neighborhood! Which they can, and they do, but first of all some neighbors in the better neighborhood resent it. And that ignores the fact that the kid already has an extra step (finding a way to get to the neighborhood) than the kid who lives there.
But, Abby, be reasonable! That is just one step. Yes. It is. But the kid who had to hitch a ride is not as familiar with the neighborhood, doesn’t know the best paths, is not able to plot out the best path for hitting all the houses that give the best stuff. They are just kind of winging it. Plus, they don’t have the candy-hander-outer hook up.
When my sisters aged out of trick-or-treating I started trick-or-treating with my friends at church who lived in neighborhoods that were nicer than mine. It was awesome. I got about 7 times as much candy as I ever had before, and it was ALL GOOD! I was in dream land. I didn’t really care, but I did notice, that often neighbors would give more candy, or candy from a special stash (like the FULL SIZE stash) to the kids that they recognized, the neighborhood children got better treats at some houses. I didn’t care because I was already getting more candy than I ever had, but I walked just as far, had just as cool a costume and did not get as much candy. Did my friends earn their candy? Sure! But they had access to things I didn’t have, and I had access to things other kids didn’t have.
Acknowledging a kid’s privilege isn’t ignoring all the steps they walked, or how hard they worked on their costume. It is just acknowledging that they had access to certain things that other kids didn’t. That is all. That is privilege.