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The American Experience Varies

We are Camp Kupugani–an overnight summer camp 90 minutes west of Chicago.  We are in the United States of America, a nation which purports to have equal opportunity for all.  Camp Owner/Director Kevin is a brown man. Camp admin Aaron is white (beige-ish really). Their American experience varies.

What Aaron can do that Kevin cannot:

  • Without realistic fear of being shot, Aaron can reach into the glove compartment if pulled over by police during a car stop.
  • Aaron can go into any store without the perception or reality of being followed or watched.
  • Aaron can feel safe in an all-white neighborhood.
  • Aaron can comfortably wear a hoodie into a building without being followed or watched very closely on the CCTV
  • Without any effort on his part, Aaron can be in the company of people of his “race” most of the time.
  • Aaron can turn on the TV (well, Netflix mostly) and see people of his race widely represented.
  • When discussing national “American” heritage, Aaron is shown most of the time that people of his complexion made it what it is.
  • Aaron does not have to be a “representative” of his race by having negative attributes generalized from him or be asked to speak for all white people.
  • (Except for at camp), Aaron is assured that, when asking to speak to someone “in charge,” he will then face a similarly-complected person.
  • If he wanted to–Aaron could take a job with an affirmative action employer or be admitted to an affirmative action school and not have colleagues perceive, believe, or outright state that the only reason he got it was because of race.

What Kevin can do that Aaron cannot:

  • Kevin can sing along to songs with the word “nigger” in it, with relatively few consequences.
  • Kevin can walk through a predominantly black neighborhood and feel safe.

What Kevin can’t do that Aaron probably could if he wanted to:

  • Aaron could be seated in a high-end restaurant and not feel like he’s being seated anywhere in particular because of his complexion.  
  • Aaron has not been unwittingly mistaken for a server at a camp wedding.
  • Aaron does not worry about having the police called on him, if he were to drop off ice skates for sharpening in a white neighborhood in a small town.
  • Aaron is confident that, if he one day has a similarly-complected child, that his child won’t be harassed, arrested, or killed because of his complexion before turning 30.
  • Aaron has never been stopped for “driving while white.”

The American experience varies.

Kupugani touches on all the core values and enrichment that we hope to instill in our [child]. My husband and I absolutely love Camp Kupugani. Our [child] gained immensely from camp.

Lisa G.

Everyone…was just so, so personable, kind, and the kind of person I want
my [child] looking up to and spending time with.

Laura V.

[My daughter’s] face lights up when she speaks about camp, it’s a priceless experience.

Kenya P.

I have never come in contact with such a wonderful group of people at a camp before. Everyone did an outstanding job, the camp was so organized, it was unbelievable.

Joe M.

She absolutely loves the camp, the staff, and all the friends she makes there. I consider Kupugani to be a big influence in helping her grow and expand her mind each summer.

Luci A.


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