It’s been almost four weeks since I created a blog post.
Where have I been, you might ask if you happened to notice you haven’t received an email in a while.
The easy answer is that my husband accepted a new pastoral position exactly one month ago, which he starts on July 1. His new church is about an hour northeast of where we are now in Boyertown, Pennsylvania, so this has necessitated the move I mentioned in my last post.
We were quite certain we would be moving this summer. What we didn’t anticipate was that his start date would be so soon. The last four weeks have been a whirlwind of getting our current home painted, partially packed up, staged, photographed, listed and sold, followed by shopping for and buying a new home near the church. I really had no time to breathe, let alone write a blog post.
But as I said, that’s the easy answer.
The harder answer has to do with the death of George Floyd on May 25.
If you’ve followed my blog for a year or more, you know that I’ve tried over the last couple of years to read books about the experiences of persons of color (POC) in our country, whether they were born here or they arrived as an immigrant, and books about racism. I blogged about this last fall, and included a list of books that had been recommended to me.
As I saw the marches after George Floyd’s death, read the supportive statements from individuals and corporations, and observed white people taking part in those marches, I felt both the horror the video produced and a modicum of hope for change, real change.
But the pushback started too. The “But what about . . .” posts and the “I’m not privileged” assertions and the anger that misunderstood words and phrases spawned. I wanted to write a post titled, “What White Privilege Isn’t.” I thought it might help clear some of that up for a few of us, but I held back. What would be the response? How many unsubscribes? How much unfriending?
Those first two weeks or so, as I logged 7,000 to 11,000 steps a day on my FitBit, without ever leaving my house, I just didn’t have the energy—physical or emotional—to write the post.
Besides so many others were writing—would my post matter? I gathered a group of links to articles and Twitter threads and Facebook posts that were insightful. Maybe I could just share those to help my readers. Here are a few:
- “White Privilege: Unpacking the Knapsack” article: https://www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/mcintosh.pdf
- “75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice” article: https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234
- “For Our White Friends Desiring to Be Allies” article: https://sojo.net/articles/our-white-friends-desiring-be-allies
- The Christian Post‘s “George Floyd’s Death: White Power and the Third Option” article: https://www.christianpost.com/news/george-floyds-death-white-power-and-the-third-option-237129/
So what don’t people mean when they talk about white privilege?
It doesn’t mean black people hate you.
In this article where Lori Lakin Hutcherson explains white privilege to a Facebook friend and describes how white privilege affects her life, she says: “Trust me, nobody is mad at you for being white. Nobody.”
It doesn’t mean they believe you are actively trying to harm black people.
White privilege isn’t something you do, it’s something you have. It is not a privilege you earn, it’s a privilege you are bestowed by being the majority race or culture. “Having white privilege and recognizing it is not racist,” says Cory Collins.
It doesn’t mean they believe you’re okay with police killing black people.
People of color understand that you can recognize that kneeling on a man’s neck for 8+ minutes isn’t right. They are asking you to use your majority privilege to call it out and insist on justice.
It doesn’t mean you’ve never suffered or had to work hard to get ahead.
Yes, there are poor white people. Yes, many white people have endured tremendous loss. Yes, you worked hard for that promotion or to get that college degree or to save for that house.
White privilege is the power to move comfortably in the world
with your needs recognized as the norm,
being given the benefit of the doubt,
and having the option to ignore racial inequities
because they don’t affect you.
Excerpted from Cory Collins’ “What Is White Privilege, Really?“
So what’s next if we are people who have white privilege?
(which we DO if we’re white in America)
- Choose to care about the issue. (You have the privilege not to care, as I’ve blogged about before; a person of color does not.)
- Listen to people of color.
- Learn by reading books and articles or watching videos.
- Speak up when you see even small acts of racial inequality or aggression. We don’t have to wait for a policeman to kneel on a man’s neck. We can call out someone telling a racist joke or defend the black person facing the small indignities.
How are you paying attention?
Here’s a bonus tutorial on systemic racism from Phil Vischer of VeggieTales fame: