White and privileged, that is.
And frankly I’m dismayed that some attempt to deny it. They fuss and carry on, claiming “white privilege” doesn’t exist.
“White privilege” is a lot like it sounds:
Being white and being privileged. I am what I am. And denying it is absurd. (And bordering on delusional.)
Lily white. That’s me.
To quote Lady Gaga, “Baby, I was born this way.”
Fair-skinned with a smattering of freckles and a tendency to burn in direct sunlight.
Yep, that too. I grew up and got my degree in the comfort and security of upper-middle-class suburbia. Intact family. Good education. Quality healthcare. Resources galore.
The fact is, so many of us in this nation are privileged. In some cases (to some degree) because of whiteness; in other cases, perhaps not.
Let me be clear.
Being white and privileged doesn’t mean your life is perfect. It doesn’t mean you never had to strive/strain/struggle. It doesn’t mean you didn’t have to make tough decisions or be resilient/relentless to attain certain things. It doesn’t mean you haven’t had to work hard/smart/long to pay your bills or sacrifice mightily to get where you wanted to go. And it certainly doesn’t mean you’ve never been a victim of misjudgment, mistreatment, crime or calamity. It simply means ethnicity hasn’t been one of your hurdles.
“White privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard; it means that your skin color isn’t one of the things making it harder.” (Not sure who said this, but… #realitycheck.)
My whiteness automatically places me in the majority in the U.S. And in many cases, it identifies me with the “people in charge” around here. Can’t say for certain, but I’m pretty sure my whiteness makes me less likely to be viewed with discomfort, fear, or suspicion, at least by the rest of the majority. (I daresay there’s less presumption when you walk around being white… than any other color. Safety in numbers.)
And while pride and prejudice aren’t strictly white “diseases,” they still run rampant in some circles.
No one is better than anyone else, period. (Let alone because of color.)
For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:11)
Sadly though, there’s a lingering air of superiority in a few of the wealthy, mostly-white neighborhoods I’ve visited. I know I’m not the only one that can smell that stale stink… Can we open the proverbial windows and let in some fresh air, for heaven’s sake?
Because a superiority complex is ugly… and ungodly.
As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)
And on the heels of superiority come its partners in crime and co-conspirators:
Suppression. Oppression. Hate.
(And when hate happens, things get ugly… quickly.)
As far as I can tell we’re all descended from the same original bloodline. So in essence, that means there’s only one race:
The human one.
(And btw, can we please try to keep the “kind” in humankind?)
How about we start here? Take a few steps outside our comfort zone. Befriend someone outside our demographic. Listen, if my only friends were white, middle-aged, married, Midwestern, mom-types (the list could go on, narrowing my circle based on identity politics and personal preferences)… my life would be so sad and small. And frankly, the more I spend time with people who – at first glance – seem vastly different from me, the more I realize how much we have in common. (When I make a frittata, it doesn’t matter whether I use brown eggs or white ones. Breakfast is fantastic either way. Because what’s inside the shell is… the same.)
So, what if we just quit labelling our neighbors and start loving them?
Instead of pot-stirrers, let’s be peacemakers.
Listening to each others’ stories and learning from them. Welcoming our neighbors – black and white and every color in between – into our lives, homes, hearts.
Instead of “us” and “them” – let’s be… we.
Collectively, we’ve got to resist the temptation (however weak or strong) to judge/label/belittle/demean someone simply because their complexion (or community) is a shade different than our own.
I think Benjamin Watson said it best: “Racism is not a skin problem. It’s a sin problem.”
Discrimination = sin. Disdain = sin. Divisiveness = sin.
Yes, we’re all sinners. You, me, every human being that’s ever been born. But you know what I want to be when I grow up?
A revolutionary for love.
*Full disclosure: In a previous draft, I used the word “colorblind.” My intent was to convey impartiality, fairness, justice… but instead, I unknowingly “erased” the uniqueness and value of all of our God-given beauty and diversity. My sincerest apologies to those whom I offended. (And many thanks to a dear friend who turned me on to the phrase “revolutionary for love.” I dig it. And I’m aiming for just that.)
I think that was Dr. King’s dream for all of us. To be love revolutionaries. To look at character instead of color. To see aspirations not appearances. To treat people with kindness and respect, regardless of skin tone or eye color or body type. Regardless of race, religion, gender, socioeconomic or immigration status, sexual orientation, genetic differentiation, diagnosis or disability.
Fair and impartial treatment. Common decency.
That’s what I understand social justice to mean.
Dr. King was a preacher and an activist. The Bible was his instruction manual. (Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength… and love your neighbor as yourself.) He believed it and taught it and lived it. He wasn’t flawless, but he was forgiven. He wasn’t perfect… but he was prophetic. He wasn’t fearless… but he was free.
Free at last.
The night before he was assassinated, Dr. King gave a speech at a church in Memphis, and he talked about things that would/could/should change the world right before his – and our – eyes. He taught scripture. He preached fairness and forgiveness. He promoted radical humility:
Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness, he said.
He spent a good deal of time that evening re-telling Jesus’ story about the Good Samaritan – who risked life and limb to aid a stranger in need, when others (“religious men”) would not. He talked about sacrificial kindness and compassion and what might hinder it.
Busyness, bigotry, “blindness” to the victim’s plight.
But I’m going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It’s possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, “I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable.” It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about… 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you’re about 2200 feet below sea level. That’s a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the “Bloody Pass.” And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked — the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”
That’s the question before you tonight.
And that’s the question before us still.
Are we willing to show sacrificial kindness and compassion to others – black, brown, fair or freckled? Or are we going to let our own fears or busyness or bigotry or “blindness” to others’ needs get in the way of love and mercy?
We were put here to help. Not simply help ourselves to whatever we can grab. But how willing are we to use whatever resources (and yes, privileges) we possess for the good of others? Even if it’s inconvenient. Or costly. Or difficult. Or downright dangerous.
Dr. King didn’t hesitate. He just did what God told him to do:
( ^ See Micah 6:8.)
Because he knew the eventual (eternal) outcome:
Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.
And I don’t mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
And so I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man!
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the LORD!
The man who spoke those words the night before he was murdered knew that his dream and his mission could cost him his life. But he was undeterred and unafraid. This was a man willing to practice what he preached. And what Jesus lived (and died) to demonstrate…
Hello, my name is Wendy. I’m white and privileged and determined to live dangerously. (Honoring Dr. King… by following his King.)
Chasing the dream,
P.S. Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s 90th birthday, and I have no doubt the celebration is heavenly. (Jesus prepared the place.) The Promised Land has plenty of room… and everyone’s welcome. Join us?