Here we are again yesterday— George Floyd. And we were here last week— Christian Cooper in Central Park. We were here a few weeks ago— Ahmuad Arbery and Breonna Taylor. And the year before that. And the years and years before that. And…it seems, we still don’t get it. Or at least, it’s easy to not see. Easier to debate. White privilege…choosing to not see this as a color issue. Subtle racism. Which is, in fact- just racism.
Does racism happen to white people? Sure.
But for different reasons.
60 years ago the Civil Rights Movement happened. That’s not long ago at all. That’s my grandparents’ and parents’ generation.
That means that black children couldn’t go to school with my grandparents. They couldn’t drink at the same water fountains, sit on the bus with, or dine at the same restaurants as my extended family members. I know for myself that these experiences shape your perception of people…and an entire race. How can it not?
So, this also means that my friends who are black have parents and grandparents with ample amounts of stories of being victimized by white people. To them, I am assuming, white people aren’t safe. And honestly…fair enough.
Racism from the black community towards white people in America = these people aren’t safe.
Racism from the white community towards black people in America = they have dark skin.
Just a few years ago I heard the term “white privilege.” I can’t remember where I was or how I heard it. I can’t remember the moment someone first brought up the idea of it. But I do know that in the wake of several unwarranted deaths by police officers in the black community, that activists for “Black Lives Matter” and media were using this phrase again and again and it quickly became a topic of conversation.
I’m just going to be honest that my initial reaction to “white privilege” was anger, annoyance, and self-defense. White privilege? My struggle and inner thoughts were, “I don’t have that. That is not me. I have friends of all races and colors.” I mean, growing up I always wanted black baby dolls, and I had mad crushes on black boys. My best friend’s kids are half black and half white. I am not a racist.
Blah, Blah Blah.
White privilege sounds harsh because it is. But not for white people. For people of color.
I’ll admit that I had conversations with my white family and friends about white privilege and we were confused and hurt by the term “white privilege” as it felt like a step back in the moment, instead of step forward with anti-racism. I recall a few white friends getting on board and rallying behind “Black Lives Matter” and calling out white privilege, which angered a lot of white people. There seemed to be so much division, when, in my head, I thought we had already landed at racial equality. I thought racism was a thing of the past. I thought we had moved forward.
I am just trying to paint the picture for you before I say, dang girl, was I wrong.
As a woman, it is said that I now have every opportunity in the world that a man does, here in America. I can vote. I can have a career. I can go out by myself. I can choose not to have kids. I can choose to stay married or not. I can choose to get married or not. I can wear pants. I can wear the pants. I can live on my own. I can preach on a Sunday. I can lead men and women. I can be a CEO. I can do a lot of things now that were taboo for my grandmother 60 years ago. Like, breastfeeding my children without shame attached. Breastfeeding my children in public instead of a stinky bathroom stall next to someone else relieving themselves. Having my husband in the hospital room while I push out his own children.
And while these may seem like an amazing progressions in history, and I am thankful for the women who have gone before me, there are still many women who are stifled, diminished, and thought of as nothing more than an add on to men here in America.
As women, there are things that men will never have to think about regularly like I do. Like, walking to my car with keys in between my knuckles, just in case a man decides to attack me. Like being fully aware at 12 years old that men will sexualize me if I’m not covered up appropriately and it’s MY responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen, not HIS responsibility to check himself. Like, having to dress more “manly” in a business setting with other men, just so that you are taken more seriously. Like, being passed up for a job because I have kids and being asked if I can handle a high-leverage position within a business because I might be distracted in my motherhood.
There are a million little things that men don’t have to think about, that girls do. It’s just a fact. And—I’m thankful for the men who have stopped, set aside their ego, listened, and rallied behind women because we wouldn’t be where we are without their support. But even still, and even with their support, and even though they have a wife, daughter, friends that are girls, a grandma, a mom, an Aunt Betty, go to the store with women, live next to a women, ride on a bus with women, go to work with women, have a boss that’s a woman; it doesn’t take away the fact that there are still underlying inequalities and privileges that they have simply because they are men.
I feel uncomfortable when people say I am not friendly. It’s confusing to me because it’s not my heart. My knee jerk reaction is to defend myself. Turns out that being a blunt person, having the worst case of RBF, and perhaps not being able to see well (need glasses), isn’t the best mixture. People weren’t feeling loved by me. And the only way I could hear them say this to me was because I chose to lay down my pride, my ideals, my defenses, and just listen.
Here’s the truth, when a mass amount of people are saying the exact same thing, it’s a good time to stop, set down the defenses, and listen. Maybe there is truth to what they are saying? Maybe I didn’t seem friendly? Maybe I am doing something that I could work to change.
Was it hard? Yeah. But I grew because of it.
Back to White Privilege.
It was really awkward for me to ask at first, to start the conversation with my friends who are Black/Brown/African-American/ Mixed Race etc. about THEIR opinions on “White Privilege.” But I did it. I braved up. I showed up. I went there. I became vulnerable and asked them to be vulnerable with me. I asked them to be honest. To tell me everything. To tell me how I can love them better. How I can support them better. How I can lead the conversation in my own church and community.
I don’t want to be blind to my friends’ pain simply because I can. I want to lean in. I love these people!
I believe that the church should be leading the way with racial diversity and racial reconciliation. This is not a political agenda, it’s the heart of God. It’s his heart for us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” If you profess Christ, read this next verse. If you’ve struggled with the idea of “white privilege” read it three more times and let the heart of God speak to you.
1 Corinthians 13
“If I were to speak with eloquence in earth’s many languages, and in the heavenly tongues of angels, yet I didn’t express myself with love, my words would be reduced to the hollow sound of nothing more than a clanging cymbal.
2 And if I were to have the gift of prophecy with a profound understanding of God’s hidden secrets, and if I possessed unending supernatural knowledge, and if I had the greatest gift of faith that could move mountains, but have never learned to love, then I am nothing.
3 And if I were to be so generous as to give away everything I owned to feed the poor, and to offer my body to be burned as a martyr, without the pure motive of love, I would gain nothing of value.
4 Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. 5 Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. 6 Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. 7 Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.”
How do Black/Brown/African-American/ Mixed Race etc. feel about white privilege???
I am not going to explain in detail what men and women of color feel about “white privilege” here because, how could I? I’m as white as a glow-in-the-dark stick. It’s not my story to tell. I want YOU to start a conversation with a woman or man of color. I want YOU to ask yourself why you feel defensive if you do. I want YOU to lead the way. I want YOU to get uncomfortable. I want YOU to not hide behind articles and books and pretend you understand. Truth be told, as a white woman, I will never understand fully the pain and frustration that people of color feel in a rather white-centric-world, just like my husband will never fully understand what it feels like to be a woman in a man-centric-world.
I can’t change the color of my skin. But I can change my empathy and lay down my defenses like God has asked of me.
At the end of the day, it comes down to love. We WILL be together in Heaven. It’s going to be the biggest culturally diverse, beautiful party of all time. Lean in my friends. Reconciliation is the heart of God. That’s why he sent his Son to die on a cross…to reconcile us to him.
Let’s move in that example, set down our pride, our agendas, our defenses and love all the way to reconciliation.
To my white brothers and sisters,
No more ignorance. No more defense. No more choosing to not see. No more anger because you don’t think it’s real. No more making excuses. No more unwarranted deaths.
We, as Christ ambassadors, operate in grace…
To my brothers and sisters of color,
I’m sorry for every time you felt even the smallest of segregation. I’m sorry for being a silent bi-stander in your pain and suffering. I’m sorry for calling your hurt a political agenda or having to be “politically correct.” I’m sorry that I was uncomfortable with having an honest conversation. I’m sorry that I was too cowardice to really hear the depths of your pain. I’m sorry that not all churches that claim to be Christ-centered are safe for you. I’m sorry. And I want to do better and be better and love better and lead better.
All my Love,