White Privilege?

My friend Tyler Menssen posted the following within a group of Christian leaders. He is the real deal and shares from a different space than you may expect if you read through. All I can say is Amen and God help us:

“As ministers, one of our callings is leading people (communities) to repentance and reconciliation. Growing up in rural, southern Minnesota and having lived in rural areas most of my life, I have not always liked the term “white privilege.” Yet here are my thoughts on why it is important – these are more personal – but I think they fit within our duties and callings as ministers to also know the term:

Many people I know who are white do not always appreciate the term “white privilege” because it feels like an unfair label, especially to whites who are in poorer communities. I hear that concern, but I want to take a moment and try to explain how I’ve come to recognize my privilege as a white male. Because of the family I was born into, the color of my skin, and my location, I have had almost every advantage one could ask for. I am blessed.

There is a wrinkle in my story. As a privileged white male, I am also the “other”, part of a minority culture (disability culture). Born without ears and with a face that might not look like yours, I get a small glimpse into what it’s like to be judged not based on anything you’ve done or your personality or how you act, but based solely on a distinguishing characteristic that isn’t part of the majority. 99.9% of the world’s population has ears. I do not. People look, stare, and still ask questions to me about my distinguishing characteristics. If I am honest, there is still a fear in me of other people – mainly a fear of being made to feel uncomfortable by other people or hurt other people because of their words or actions. I also understand what it’s like as a hearing-impaired person to be in a world with systems and structures (and even church prayers) geared towards those who have ears and can hear.

Yet, in spite of this discomfort, fear, and inconveniences here and there, I have never had to fear for my life. I have never had to fear that someone would mistake a wallet I was grabbing for in my pocket for a gun. I am part of the majority – the privileged. Whether we (white people) like it or not, regardless of a rural, urban, or suburban location, being in the majority in terms of culture and the social construct we call race (i.e. being white in America), gives us privilege – an advantage. I do not have to keep my driver’s license on the dash of my car so that if I am pulled over there can be no mistaking pulling out a wallet for pulling out a gun. We are privileged as whites because we do not have to live in fear of people discriminating against us because of the skin color we have. We get to be who God made us to be without any repercussions. Our minority brothers and sisters cannot say the same.

We also do not have to continue to fight against a history that denied us all rights and power (slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, etc.). For all of America’s history people in power have been white. As of March 1, 2018, only 3 Fortune 500 CEOs were African American. In 2016, only 7.9 percent of college and university presidents (this includes Presidents at HBCUS) were African American. All but 1 US President has been white, and many of our Presidents even up until recently have a checkered past with racism. What would it be like as a kid to look up and see all the people in power in business, education, and in politics as white? That is the privilege of being white. As I long for people with disabilities to more be in politics, run businesses, be on non-profit boards, be college presidents, be featured on advertisements, and in tv shows (not just as a token disabled person), I can see how the absence of other minorities on this list makes it feel difficult to feel respected and worthy and included in society.

All of this (white privilege and the systems and structures in place that continue to favor whites) stems from our sin, desire for power and domination, and fear of the other. We are all complicit, and we all have a duty to continue to reconcile and bring justice to the whole kingdom of God. This means giving up our privilege and our power where we can. It means passing laws that provide equal opportunities and access within our systems and structures for all people. May our actions, our words, and our faith continue to embrace the lives, the histories, and the stories of those we have hurt so that we can repent, receive forgiveness, and move forward in reconciliation.”

As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

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