White and Unprivileged
I am white. Do I have white privilege? There is no black blood in me. I checked through Ancestry.com, and there’s none there. Would I mind if there were black blood in me? Not at all, yet I can only claim Germanic Europe, England and northwestern Europe, France, Norway, Scotland, and Ireland as my ancestry.
I grew up poor by today’s standards. We were poor, but we had enough. Compared to some people, anyhow. I paid my own way through college and received no farm, land, or estate from my parents.
Dave’s story is the same. From a financial standpoint, his family was also poor. The size of his family and where he was in line with so many younger siblings still at home benefitted him when he went to college. His grades in high school helped, too. So much so that he had a full ride to Virginia Tech (to the chagrin of some of his siblings). Dave doesn’t expect an inheritance from his parents’ estate. If there even were an inheritance, by the time it is divided among eight siblings, there’d not be much for taking, anyhow. What he has is what he obtained through hard work, perspiration, integrity, and due diligence.
After college, both of us found jobs that suited our education and interests. We did not have to go through extra loop-holes to obtain the jobs we had. You could say we were self-made. What we had, we earned fair and square through hard work and diligence. No one handed us a silver platter with or without a spoon.
I never concerned myself with white privilege, because I certainly didn’t have it. Dave wasn’t concerned, either. He certainly didn’t experience it. Or so we thought. What we had was earned fair and square. No white privilege for us!
Why white privilege is a bone of contention
Then, with the advent of summer 2020, my eyes have been opened. Because our church has taken decisive action to learn about racism in our community, our county, and our country, we’ve been on a learning curve. I’ll be the first to say that rioting, looting, cursing and swearing gets us nowhere. It doesn’t right the wrongs of the past, and it certainly does not endear oneself to others.
Yet, as one of my black friends told me, “Coming to the table hasn’t gotten us anywhere, so that’s why they’re rattling the cages.” She should know, because she’s seen white privilege and experienced its effects. I’m sad to say that some of it happened right under my nose where we worked together from 2004 until about four years ago.
What I’m doing about white privilege
For starters, I’ve had to wrap my mind around the truth that abolition of slavery did not make black people free. They’re still enslaved, partly because of white man’s doings and partly because we’re never free until we move forward in forgiveness for the past. For the white race, not admitting what was so wrong imprisons us as well. The problem is that today, black people still suffer from white privilege. I’ve been given examples by black people in my community whose lack of promotions or loopholes to obtain a job were based solely on their skin color. Even in acquiring land, loans, or banking, the skin color made the difference. A well known father of eight in our county with good social standing shared with us his personal experiences that were due solely on the color of his skin. I’m sure the stories he told barely scratched the surface of his experiences, but he told us enough to make us aware that white privilege still exists where I live.
It’s true that my skin color has never denied me funding, land, education, or a job. That’s white privilege. Don't ask your white friends about white privilege. Ask your black friends. Click To Tweet And if you have no black friends, get some. Then learn from them.
Listening and Learning
I have read historical accounts (ones I’ve never heard before) that turned my stomach so badly I had to quit reading. The horror of things that truly happened burn in my mind today. Later, I went back and finished the stories. I’m still reading and learning. Why were we not taught these things as part of American history?! Is it because white people wrote the stories without input from black people? Or is it because white people aren’t ready to put it out there for people to see – the things that really happened to people of color who were innocent but judged to be guilty only because of their skin color? We’d think it horrible if Germany ignored the atrocities of Hitler, yet our country is guilty of trying to do the same.
I’ve listened. It’s one thing to listen with an intent to have a come back or to excuse what has happened. It’s another thing to listen to understand and care about the pain. I’m still learning how to listen. There are so many podcasts we can listen to that can enlighten us. But what really hits a person to the core is sitting down with a black friend. I wanted to learn what it’s like to grow up in this county as a black person. It’s something else to ask them about white privilege and then listen to their stories. I’ve done that.
Growing and tuning
I’ve grown, but I still have more growth to do. I do not think I needed to go from prejudiced to unprejudiced, nor do I consider myself a racist. However, I’ve been blind to injustices that have taken place in my community. When it didn’t affect me or my kids, I didn’t know it was there, nor did I try to make my world a better place by staying tuned to this issue. For that, I’m sorry. There were times I could have – and should have – spoken up, but didn’t because I didn’t pay attention. If I could do it over, I’d pay more attention, and I’d speak up and ask questions of those showing prejudice.
I’m more in tune. I lunched with a realtor friend to ask her if redlining exists in this community. It is illegal, but there are still people in our county who try to instruct her not to sell property in their neighborhood to people of color. They don’t want black neighbors. She’s furious, and she keeps right on selling property no matter the neighborhood or skin color. My friend is on the same path I am – talking to people of color to learn about white privilege and trying to educate white folks who are so ignorant. She’s also asking questions of black friends.
Asking my black friends about privilege
I’ve come to wonder why it is more difficult for me to distinguish between a “good” or a “bad” person if their skin color is black, than it is to distinguish between a “good” or “bad” person if their skin color is white. Does that make me racist?
That’s why I have chatted with black friends and listened to black people share their stories. One afternoon I sat down with a friend – a former co-worker – who is black. (There are many more whose stories I plan to hear). I asked my friend about white privilege. She gave me instances of things that happened to her – in our high school in the early 2000s, at our place of work, and where she is working now – because of her color. I didn’t know her in high school and I don’t work where she does now, so I can only take her word for it (which I do).
But the place we worked together for ten years? It happened. Oh, it was subtle, but it was there. I should have spoken up. I should have asked questions, but I didn’t, because I wasn’t really aware. It wasn’t on my radar, and I’m sorry. The instances she spoke of? Though I vaguely remember, I didn’t connect the dots. It didn’t affect me, and I was oblivious. That’s no excuse. I should have paid attention. I’m sorry.
The bottom line
We need to celebrate our differences and recognize color because God made us so. We must also recognize that every one of us, no matter our ethnicity, needs to find forgiveness for our own personal sins. Our blood runs the same types and the same color because we are truly one blood.
There is only one way to find restitution. That is through Jesus Christ. His blood covers our sins when we repent. His power breaks down walls and sets us free. If white and black people will come together at the cross, we will find that truly, the ground is level there. Reconciliation begins at the cross, where blood flows freely, bringing redemption for every single soul.
Because when we claim Jesus Christ as Savior, each one of us becomes a privileged child of God. The ground truly is level at the Cross.
I’d love to hear what you are doing in your corner of the world to make a difference and bring healing to your community. Email me at email@example.com