Day 3: This knapsack is way too big
Public Privilege Challenge Day 3: Acknowledging my white privilege
Hello, friends, welcome to Day 3.
I must admit I am losing both heart and steam. I have been feeling more powerless than empowered; more silly than wise. And I feel very very very ineffectual.
Day 1’s post had a reader comment regarding privilege being a blessing of purpose; that God bestows privilege in order “to bring people to a saving knowledge of the Gospel.” I wonder at this. When I read the New Testament I see stories of people giving up their privilege; of Jesus and Paul and numerous significant yet unnamed women giving up material wealth, living life without a physical home and pursuing a deep and meaningful spirituality which does not harm others. The privilege that I hold today is often harmful to others; my wealth is built on the backs of the global poor, my clothes are made by exploited children in sweatshops, my culture’s worship of able-bodies means that there are few accessible public or private spaces. In 1 Corinthians 4 Paul admonishes that group for being rich, arrogant, and for not pursuing a Paul-life lifestyle of being “scum of the world.” Call me idealistic, but I cannot believe that my privilege has been meant to bless others with an empty-sounding message of future salvation, of shelter only in heaven and of justice just over that proverbial hill. Injustice needs to be resisted against, especially those injustices which benefit my physical life.
I do recognize that my last few posts have been somewhat dark; privilege, once acknowledged, is a depressing thing. In the current issue of Geez, we put forward perhaps a new way of interacting with our privilege; instead of guilt or paranoia we fumble for love. This is bang-on and beautiful and provides a guiding path towards a better world; let’s fumble, try, experiment, resist, recoup, try again. Let’s stand firm against injustice, while providing each other with grace and gentleness. A tricky balance, but one to strive for.
Anyway, I am white. Let’s talk about that.
EVERYBODY READING THIS should click here and read Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. It gives a clearer, better description of white privilege than I ever could.
My life is somewhat boring lately (again, an aspect of my privilege) in that I basically only go to work and then go home, not really interacting with much of the outside world. Poor planning on my part, especially since I can’t talk much about my day job. But even with these limitations, this is what I saw today;
- everybody on my bus on the way to work looked like I do
- in the three television shows that I watched, there were five non-white characters; all were secondary characters in service positions including secretary, hotel clerk, car repair person, maid, and waitress
- people walked into my place of work and assumed that I was a staff member only because of the color of my skin
- people I interacted with on the phone quickly assumed my understanding and didn’t speak slowly, loudly, or use simple words
- walking home, everybody I passed on my street looked like I do
- the security guards, police, and Downtown Biz (ugh) members that I saw looked like I do
- the caretaker of my building looks like I do
- . . . and on and on and on
White privilege is an insidious evil thing which normalizes white people’s experiences and reinforces the cycle of racism that is so inherent within our culture. It is often impossible to see unless you are looking for it. It is also intricately connected to other privileges including wealth and literacy. As such, I had a very difficult time resisting this privilege of mine and don’t have any tangible examples of doing so. This is not meant to be an excuse; it is a lament. I really don’t know what to do about it in my day to day life.
So I have ordered some books, including Uprooting Racism by Paul Kivel. I have begun conversations with friends and confidantes. I have done a multitude of google searches. I could do with more on the ground methods of resisting my privilege and undoing racism. Pass them on if you have suggestions. I’ll keep you updated in later posts.
Thanks for sticking close,
Read Day 4: Resisting my cisgender privilege
Read Day 2: Resisting my able-bodied privilege
Why am I doing this? Click here to find out.