How it was…
I suspect that my story in its broader outlines mirrors many others. I was born on October 6th,1970 in New Orleans, Louisiana to two Black parents. I was the youngest of five boys and there is a fifteen- year difference between me and my youngest brother. My mother had me at forty years old and my father was fifty-five years old when I was born.
The neighborhood I grew up in could be described as a Black Working\Middle class neighborhood. On my block there was one White family. There were seven houses on the block and five of them were owned while the remainders were rentals (We rented). Crime was relatively rare, but it was not a fabled “you could leave the doors unlocked” type of neighborhood or time. One night when I was about ten years old my mother was robbed at gunpoint on our front porch.
I went to an elementary school that was, I believe, to be average performing. In my household and in my school the importance of education was stressed to me. Being born into a middle -class lifestyle meant that I didn’t want for food, or shelter. I had no such concerns and my family had enough money so that I never qualified for free or reduced lunch. My mother was an avid reader and so the house was always filled with books. I remember she would always buy whatever book, magazine or comic book I wanted, and I remember when she once ordered me a set of encyclopedias called Childcraft. I am a voracious reader today because of that. I struggled with math so that was and remains a challenge for me. My family could not afford private tutors and I don’t remember if my school offered after\before school tutoring. My mother had enough education to understand and help me with the math I was having trouble with. I can envision many parents not being able to do so.
Moving on to middle school some issues began to surface in my home life. The first being that my dad was diagnosed with diabetes, atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. At the same time by next older brother moved in with us and he was addicted to cocaine. Later, my oldest brother moved in with us too and he was likewise addicted to drugs. My mother worked from 5 pm to 11 pm and so it fell to me to take care of my dad and to keep a watch out for my brothers. Middle school through high school was difficult because my dad started losing more and more cognitive function and he became progressively more difficult to care for. My brothers got worse with their addictions and their behavior became more dangerous. All the while I was expected to stay and do well in school and to stay out of trouble. I believe that(paradoxically), the fact that I had those abnormal responsibilities kept me out of trouble because I essentially had no social life. The impact though is that today I still find social situations awkward and often prefer my own company.
I was an average student in high school. Although I continued to struggle in math I managed to graduate and get accepted into the University of New Orleans. No one in my immediate family graduated from college. Two out of my four brothers dropped out of high school. I had no role models to emulate (college types). I had no support system at home to help me. I did not have good academic habits or discipline and so I ended up on academic probation a lot. People generally think I’m a very intelligent person, but I never realize my full potential. I think that is a correct assessment. Eventually I dropped out of college and join the army with getting a degree.
In the army I served 8 years. I re-enlisted and got accepted into the U.S Army’s Academy of Health Sciences program for Cardiovascular Technology. Those same bad habits I had plagued me in that program, and I end up being recycled and sent through the program again. I graduated, left the army and have enjoyed a career that has been professionally and financially rewarding as a Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist. I have since returned to school (Saint Leo) to pursue a degree in Sociology. My life to this point can be summarized as” fortune from unfortunate circumstances.” Although my life could have turn tragic, I was lucky to have good people looking out for me and to have grown up in a household where I didn’t worry about food or shelter. Overall, to this point I have been very lucky, and I feel grateful.
How it could have been…
I was born in New Orleans on October 6th,1970 to two wonderful parents. My father was a cardiac thoracic surgeon at LSU Medical Center and my mother was an attorney that came from a long line of politicians with a deep history in New Orleans. I grew up in an exclusive neighborhood off St Charles avenue with my only sibling, a sister. There are no Black people that live in my neighborhood. From everything I see on TV I don’t think they would fit in here very well anyway. This is a nice area and I wouldn’t want any trouble.
As a child I did well in school, but I had a bit a trouble with math. Luckily Dad got me a private tutor, to work with me and I finally get it and excel. Life was pretty good growing up. We often traveled out of the country once a year and I got to visit mom and watch her work in the court room from time to time. I’m fascinated with the law and think that I might want to become a lawyer someday.
Later, when I was about ten years old my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and so he had to stop working. We had to hire someone to care for him, it was difficult watching him like that but at least he received outstanding care until his passing. High school was great. I was the captain of the debate team and we went (but didn’t win the nationals). I graduated as valedictorian thankfully to the outstanding tutors and mentors I have had.
When it was time to go college, the choice was clear. I would attend Tulane university. I was lucky enough to get in because of legacy admissions and the enormous amount of “donations” my family made to the university. I eventually graduate Magnum Cum Laude with a degree in political science. I get accepted and graduate law school in ’96. Since passing the Bar in ’98 I’ve been a practicing attorney for close to thirty years now. I am now entertaining the idea of running for a newly vacated senate seat. We shall see. If I were to summarize my life, I would say it would have to be one of “fortunate circumstances”. I was born a White male, in America to a wealthy family. My life could have so many more obstacles, but I have been lucky, and I recognize that.
The lesson of two different and same people…
In comparing my real life to the fictionalized account, I tried to give the alternate version the same innate challenges. The differences in resources, money, and social standing has led to diametrically different outcomes. Although I consider myself accomplished, how much more could I have achieved if I wasn’t burdened with the responsibilities of a sick brother and drug addicted siblings. If I had a legacy of professional people in my family maybe I would have done better in college and never went into the military in the first place. It’s impossible to tell but I think it is reasonable to assume that the effects of race, privilege and social status has an out sized impact on a person’s life with respect to the effort the expended. I believe that, underprivileged people have a harder time with everything when compared to more privileged people even in the cases where the both work just as hard.