I’ve been aware of the term, “white privilege” for quite some time. I understand it and accept that by fluke of birth I have considerable power in our society. As various movements have come to the fore such “Black Lives Matter”, “Me Too”, and the UN’s “International Decade for People of African Descent” I have hoped that some shifting of power might result. I readily admit that I am anxious about it as well since the only direction I can go is down but I naively assumed that most of my kind (WASPs) would agree that down is where we need to go. We who have written and defined history for so long need to be humbled and others need to rise up. It would be a fulfilling of the old hope of holy reversal (the last need to be first and the first last).
However I was shocked by the number of conversations I was in or overheard this week in which whites were angrily defending our power and our right to define the world. It saddened me greatly though I recognize that much of it is motivated by fear and anxiety. It made me more aware that part of white privilege is the assumption that empowering others means that they will look more, act, and sound and more like me. Letting go of power means letting go of control, it means a new defining of issues and a new understanding of history. This can be a gift for all. I remember a book that came out about ten years ago that completely changed my understanding of aboriginal history in North America. The scale of the society that existed prior to diseases like small pox was truly impressive. My point is simply that redefining my understanding was not a loss but a gain. It is my hope that such transformations will continue throughout my life. History, like theology is not a dead topic for which everything has already been written and decided. It is a living study for which new and deeper insights can always emerge.
I do not yet know how to preach about white privilege but I think about it often. I hope to find the words. It is one of my goals for 2018. I hope that the church can be good place to explore this. The North American church is no longer the centre of power for Christianity and so maybe that loss of power will help us embrace being diminished in other ways. I look forward to the conversations.