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.



Filed under citizenship, faith, Martin Luther King, mennonite, Mennonite Church USA, MLK, racism, rights, White Privilege

5 responses to “Seminar

  1. Glenn Runnalls

    Who administer’s white privilege?

    In general, does white privilege mean that white’s get inappropriate treatment or that nonwhites (and noncompliant whites) are withheld appropriate treatment?


    • Glenn

      Good question.

      One way to view White Privilege is to see it as an inheritance. It is something we receive and not easily disposed of.

      I find myself uncomfortable with “inappropriate,” I prefer to use “preferential.” As I think about this adjustment in wording I cannot help but wonder if I am trying to soften the power of White Privilege….

      • Glenn Runnalls

        these are really important questions, if you believe there is such a thing as white privilege you have to wrestle with them. certainly the relative freedom from unreasonable searches is more than an inheritance . . . and is more than preferential.

        i think it is unhelpful to think of white privilege as an inheritance . . . there is something appropriate to inheritances that would be unhelpful to attach to white privilege. otoh, inheritances are usually way more obvious and significant than white privilege. this is one reason that folks whose families immigrated to the cdn prairies mid-twentieth cent. have a hard time acknowledging white privilege. their family story probably includes resisting/accommodating/overcoming waspish prejudice and the fail to recognize all the benefits that have come to them as compliant whites.


  2. doormiami

    I hope we create a space comfortable enough for the hundred or so chairs to fill. Maybe we can all begin to own to the unearned privileges of of dominant culture and the responsibilities and care of wielding or dismantling such privilege. I think there are 170 chairs, so that’s a very good start.

  3. No qeuitson this is the place to get this info, thanks y’all.

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