The Privilege of Snow Days


Remember that time it snowed a foot in Richmond, like a month ago? 

I know it might be hard to since it's been in the 70s for the last week. That's been pretty cool. 

Working for CHAT is a nice buffer between living on a student schedule and living on the schedule of your average full-time American job. But because our programs follow public school weather schedules I pretty much get snow days off from work. Which is nice. 


The kid in me feels a deep sense of joy when it snows. Snow means a break from work and an opportunity to play because my job allows it and I have everything I need to have a good time.

So I was surprised when I went out into the snow, and this densely populated neighborhood seemed empty. 

There was almost no one sledding or even leaving their houses. The only black kid I saw was with a white family. And when I drove to the Mosby Court public housing projects (home to several hundred children) a few days after the snowstorm, I saw no snowmen, no snow angels, no igloos, no snowball-fight-forts, and few signs that any kids had even left their apartments.

For the first time in my life I found myself thinking that maybe snow isn't so universally beloved. 

It occurred to me that enjoying snow requires a certain kind of privilege. So I sat down and I thought about it and developed this list of things you should have to enjoy a snow day the way American culture paints it: 

A lot of warm clothing. Not even just warm but water-resistant — gloves, jackets, pants and boots — these are virtually exclusively used for playing in the snow. And that stuff is expensive. Kids grow out of it super quickly. And good luck finding any at Goodwill. 


• Specialized sledding equipment. Not as pricey as the clothes, but still useless in every other circumstance. Plus, for both of these things, you have to have storage space to keep them around for the other 360 days of the year. 


• Transportation and/or plenty of food. Getting stuck inside would be a lot less enjoyable if you weren't able to get to a grocery store and stock up on several days' worth of food. 


• A salaried job, not an hourly one. Because if you do work hourly, you can't take paid leave when your five-year-old has the day off from school and needs to be taken care of. And you could lose a (perhaps crucial) chunk of income if your employer closes or if road conditions prevent you from getting to work. 

I'm not saying that no children or families in Church Hill and/or the housing projects played outside during the storm. And I'm not an expert. I have no data and I haven't asked any kids or any parents about how snow affects their lives. 

This was just one snowstorm and this is just my viewpoint. Snow days looked different here than anywhere I've experienced one before. And maybe some of the things above are reasons why.

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