There is a narrative for a person like me.
A person who doesn’t come from a “good family” who toed the line of right and wrong at some point or other, and doesn’t have any exceptional talent.
The narrative is the forgotten stories, the stories that end up in newspapers only to mention a clash with society, as a reminder to the rest, that those who fall astray are deeply penalized.
It’s not because my family’s skin is brown or because they hail from another country. Although it does add to the levels someone with a story like mine has to climb to be able to succeed.
It’s a narrative that says when people make bad decisions only they are responsible for the outcome.
Except that it’s not true. Those consequences are felt by some and not all and usually the ones that escape is because of chance.
You know who you are because you’re sitting in class a couple months from graduation, or in your office with your comfortable paycheck. You know that in moments of your life, things could have turned out very different for you. And because of luck or some other divine intervention you got a chance to escape that fate. Maybe you learned from your mistakes and never turned back, maybe you’re trying to reconcile with the past, or maybe you’re naive enough to think no harm will ever touch you. But you exist out in the world and for every one of you, there are 3 others with your exact background story with a very different outcome.
Maybe you got caught for that that one time you shoplifted
Maybe instead of getting home safely from the bars driving with 2 or 3 too many drinks in your system, you had hit someone
Maybe you got kicked out of school for cheating on homework
Maybe those times you were a little careless with your boyfriend/girlfriend you had gotten pregnant and deterred your plans
Maybe the family of the person you got into a fight at school had pressed charges
Maybe you would have gotten charged and prosecuted for all those songs and movies you downloaded illegally
Maybe you got caught by police for drinking underage or taking something that you shouldn’t have or simply because you were in the same room
There were times when your path could have gone in a totally different direction. But it didn’t. You graduated college, you have a good job, you have a home and transportation. Yes it took hard work but none of that would have mattered if luck hadn’t played a hand at it too. Because the thing for people like you and me is that we weren’t meant to succeed. We were supposed to have fallen into the traps. But you didn’t. You exist. And there are thousands out there who want to understand how to leave their past behind them and look to you and me as an example. Don’t look down on them, because you are looking at your own reflection had luck decided to stop interfering in your life too.
There is this understanding in minority communities that to succeed you have to be infallible. If you come from poverty, from a minority race, of a different sexual orientation or a minority gender, you don’t get second chances. So there is this fight to do good and be good. But for some that fight is harder.