Sometimes I agree to do something before I fully think through all the implications. Months ago a coworker and I agreed to lead a seminar titled “Crossing the Bridge of Culture and Race” at the upcoming Mennonite Convention in Pittsburg. Apparently we are going to talk about White Privilege. This is one of those “elephant in the room” topics. I want to live in the world of Martin Luther King’s dream – a world where people are only judged content of their character.
Talking about white privilege means owning the fact that King’s world has not yet arrived. It means admitting that I am afforded privileges simply because of my skin color. This is not easy to talk about. On one hand I enjoy the privileges of being a white male. I have never been stopped by the police because of my race. I can travel to Arizona without worrying about having to produce documents proving my legal status and I am not even an American citizen. On the other hand it is embarrassing to just have this privilege. I did not do anything to earn it. I was born White and will die White, this privilege just is – a type of unearned power.
How do I talk about something I didn’t ask for, but certainly benefit from? One 55 minute seminar will not solve the issue.
Maybe the first step is to own the privilege.
And the second step is to create sacred spaces – to talk about the issue and hear the stories of people who have been negatively impacted by White Privilege. These spaces are rarely comfortable places for White people to be. But occupying the space, hearing the stories and owning the privilege creates a possibility for a new world – a world where people are judged by the content of their character.