Privilege.

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I had a different post planned for today.

But after seeing a note by a lovely friend of mine who is Hispanic, about her concerns as an American in an America that feels that Trump is our best representative, I decided that post should wait.

My friend is by no means an alarmist.

Let me be clear on that. She has always been one of the most positive, optimistic, grounded people I’ve known.

And she is definitely no whiner.

This woman has endured degrees of hardship I hope I make it through my whole life without facing. But instead of letting it make her bitter, or hopeless, she has simply worked harder to bear the image of Christ.

And she bears that image better than most people I know.

So, seeing her comment in a public forum about feeling real fear due to the colour of her hair and skin … that impressed me.

Also this week I had also seen an article that impressed me, and saved it to post sometime, because I thought it was exactly the right perspective.

I’m going to move that up to post now, but I want to talk a little about it first.

I want to talk about it first because it deals with a very touchy phrase: ‘White Privilege’.

I’ve seen lots of comments on this phrase in recent years.

Sometimes it’s an insult : “You with your White Privilege, think you can……”

Sometimes it’s a statement of shame: “Me with my White Privilege, how can I …”

Sometimes it’s just a statement of fact: “White Privilege is… or does… or gives .. or takes….”

I didn’t hear this phrase growing up.

But my parents taught me that I WAS privileged, very, and that part of that privilege came from being white in this country.

They taught me that because I was an American, because I came from a family wealthy by comparison with most of the world (though we were normal middle class here), and yes, because I was white, I had many things easier than other people did.

They taught me about the difficulties that people dealt with simply because their skin colour was darker than mine and their history in America was different from mine.

My parents never taught me to be ashamed of being white. Or to be proud of it. They simply taught me the facts and taught me responsibility.

The same way they taught me that because I am a woman, I would have difficulties that I would not have if I had been born male. 

Not an excuse, not something to be ashamed of, just a fact.

So, when I’ve seen white people either defensive about ‘White Privilege’, or overwhelmed with shame because of it, I’ve struggled  to understand.

But I can understand that neither response is helping any of us. 

And that is why I loved this article I found. One of my favourite lines in it is

“Guilt is not helpful. Shame is not helpful. Action is.”

There is no shame in being white. It’s not like we can help it.

And there is not even any inherent shame in being privileged for something we can’t do anything about.

These are simply facts.

The only shame that would make sense to me is having a privilege I did nothing to earn, which costs me nothing to use, and failing to see that as a gift that must surely be useful for creating some sort of general benefit.

How that plays out is different for different people. Not everyone is  Corrie ten Boom, but not everyone needs to be.

One of us might take on the whole legal or political system. Another might simply stand up for one person we know. Millions of us will do something somewhere in between.

And that’s perfect. That’s how all the needs in the world get met – by our glorious diversity! No one could do it all. 

My other favourite quote from the article is

“Because of your privilege, you have tremendous power”

And that, to me, is the key point.

We don’t all feel like we have much power right now. And just because I’m white sure doesn’t mean I have the kind of power, or as much power, as I might need to feel safe and okay. 

But I have enough power to choose to stand with people who are different from me, instead of letting ‘The Powers That Be‘ turn me against them.

(And let’s face it: most black, or hispanic, or Muslim, Americans have far more in common with ME than most wealthy, powerful politicians ever will! Neither Trump nor Clinton are at all worried about paying their bills or saving for retirement.)

It might be threatening to think of helping others when we don’t feel powerful enough ourselves in this scary world. But it IS NOT true that helping others succeed takes away our opportunities.

So, my recommended reading for today is the encouraging article:

This teacher is showing her students how to use white privilege for good.

 

And my hope for today is that we can all see any privilege we have –

whether white privilege,

American privilege,

or any other privilege;

whether it’s the privilege we wish we had, or not,

as one thing we have to offer in this big scary world.

 

Be well. 

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