I write a lot about self awareness, understanding the wake that we leave, discerning how we are experienced by others so that we may more healthily engage with the world around us. Why? So that we can be enlivened by who we are in Christ. This brings freedom from the world in which we live and equips us to not only continue on this course of understanding but breathe life into others. Jesus is the life. Jesus is this freedom. But, I must admit, that there are things that I am still unaware of. Let me share how….
Many of you who read my blog know me. Be it from college, working together or the town I grew up. But there are still many who have no idea anything about me except for the profile pic on WordPress, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. A blurb here and there, but that’s it. No more. Let me give a brief description. I’m white. Born of German and English decent, white is the color of my skin. I come from a small, very small “village.” Our town has only one stop light, and in the town proper, only 3,000 people. I grew up on a farm, about four miles from that stop light. Our closest neighbors were about a half mile away…all white. I’m an American. Born and raised, one family line came over from Europe just after the Mayflower. The other line came in hopes of a better life away from what Germany was becoming in the 1920’s. I’m also male. And not just any male, a 6’6″ (198cm) male. So I tend to tower over most people, especially in the past two countries I’ve called home, let alone my passport country. To some of you, that may seem normal and hardly noteworthy. But to others, that may cause a bit of anxiety or perhaps, a small amount of fear. Believe me, I’m a little used to it. When I was growing up, if I got too close to some babies, they would begin to cry at the large tower looming over them. But that was babies, not adults. And that was simply about my height, not about anything else. Some of you may have that fear or anxiety for entirely different reasons than just my height.
As I’ve grown in both age and understanding of self, I’ve come to realize that perhaps there is something different about me. Not that my situation is unique by any means. There are several, hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions of people very similar to me and my situation. But, there is something about me that I can’t see and have only come to realize in recent years.
You see all those descriptors bring up fear, turmoil, anxiety to various people for various reasons when I walk into different situations. Why? Because I possess a certain privilege that most people in this world don’t have. I have a voice, that millions around the world don’t have because it is oppressed to some degree or another.
Let me take my incredible spouse for example. I take up a massive amount of emotional space in our relationship. So much so, that she has to “shout” in order to be heard. Does she literally have to shout? No, but she does need to become more vocal and more blunt at times. I get self focused and therefore others have to become “louder” in order for me to take notice. When I get emotionally involved, I get animated. Animated for a person who is 5’5″ is one thing. But when you’re 6″6″ tall, animation gets big…and ugly. When I start to talk with my hands, which happens often, because I’m so large, it can look as though I am super animated, but I’m not. Relatively speaking that is. Because of my height I tend to overlook others, literally. My quiet is shouting to those around me, and that can cause people to “cower” in the corner. I’m a man, so therefore I am the bread winner. I am the one who has the job while it is assumed her job is keeping the kids and home at bay, right? How far form the truth is that?
When I looked up “privilege” in a thesaurus, these where the strongest synonyms: advantage, allowance, authority, benefit, concession, entitlement, exemption, freedom, immunity, license, opportunity, prerogative and right. Those words, in this context, are powerful and strong…….. and oppressive.
The country in which I currently live is not used to seeing people of a different skin color, so I am stared at quite a bit. Which is uncomfortable. However, because of this color, I am allowed to enter buildings, guarded neighborhoods, off limit spaces no questions asked because it is assumed that because I’m white, I must be important…more valuable than others who are from this country. Because of my passport, there are many countries around the world that I may travel to freely, without a visa or background check simply because of where I am from. When other foreigners inquire of me of what it takes to visit America I can’t help them because we do have strict visa requirements…especially for 3rd world countries.
I see this, now, on a daily basis, where as before growing up, it never occurred to me. Not once did I ever question why certain things just happened for me, until recent years. David E. Fitch posted recently “The 1st thing a white person should say (or confess) concerning white privilege is “uh, I don’t see it” and then ask “Can you help me?”
So, I have learned to learn. I have learned that I do not have all the answers, that I don’t know or understand why it will be harder for my daughter in this world than for my two sons. I’ve learned that I need to try, as hard as I can, to understand what life were like if I was shorter, if I was darker, if I was from a country whose currency is so valueless it’s not even traded in the world market. I have learned to learn what I am, so that I can show who I am better. I need to learn what it’s like to be the “other,” so that I may better understand myself in Christ. So that I may understand the areas I don’t understand and repent for what my life has blinded me to. Did God make me a large, white American as a mistake? NO! But it doesn’t mean that because of this I don’t have anything to repent for. I do, and learning that every day, is what God is asking of me…of all of us.
And this is where my heart sinks as I watch the lack of dialogue about what is going on from NFL players refusing to stand for a national anthems to people being banned for wearing too much clothing on the beach, to wars being raged that are hardly talked about on international media.
And again my heart sinks.
Brene Brown writes, “I’ve learned enough about privilege to know that we’re at our most dangerous when we think we’ve learned everything we need to know about it. That’s when you stop paying attention to injustice.”
There are so many loud voices out there today that are shouting things back and forth, that we as the Church don’t need to shout. As the Church, we don’t need to be the loudest voice in the world today….no, we need to be the constant voice of today. We need to be the constant voice of love, compassion, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self control, hope, faithfulness, joy and peace even when chaos is running amuck. My prayer is that we will stop shouting, and starting speaking truth. That we will become the Constant Voice that spoke the world into existence. That we will live the Word that became flesh. That we will breathe life into those around us as life was breathed into some dust and earth so many years ago. And that we will be the voice of peace. Let us be the bearers of peace, dear Jesus. Amen.
be blessed today