What is my privilege?

I’m trying to educate myself more about the racial divide in our country. Recently I came across a way of expressing how much I take for granted that is not available to many others.

Here’s the various privileges and my paraphrasing of the descriptions:

  • Economic privilege – the possibility to pass wealth on to my children and to not worry about whether I can provide the necessities for my family…and also have enough for what would seem luxuries to many others (vacation, health care, etc.)

    This is true for me. I do not consider myself “rich”–but compared to most of the rest of the world, I am. I have a home, health care, the ability to buy food and clothing, enough to have private transportation and be able to go on vacations.

  • Spatial privilege – being able to move around without fear of violence.

    Somewhat true for me. As a woman, I am more vulnerable than men–but I am definitely less vulnerable than minority individuals.

  • Educational privilege – knowing that public education will meet my needs and that I can get a quality education.

    Definitely true for me. I received an excellent education–and have been able to get two advanced degrees.

  • Intellectual privilege – my accomplishments will be recognized as being my accomplishments, not as “a credit to [my] race.”

    Again, true for me.

  • Historical privilege – when I open a history book, people of my race are represented accurately and given credit

    Again, true for me. As I have gotten older, I am realizing just how much I did not learn from my history books–how much history was presented from only my perspective, diminishing the accomplishments of individuals from other backgrounds.

  • Generational privilege – the ability to search for and find my ancestors

    I’ve been enjoying doing some family research, finding out more about my great-great-great-great-grandparents (and further back). I can find them in historical records without too much difficulty, although sometimes figuring out which spelling of my last name might have been used! But in looking at those records, I also often see individuals described by only one name (a “white” one) with no other information that might help their descendants connect with them.

  • Bodily privilege – the freedom to look like I do and not have people judge me or want to touch me

    Again, this is mostly true for me. Yes, sometimes I may have someone ask if I have put on (or lost) weight, but that is not a constant question. And, except for when I was pregnant, people have generally not wanted or felt free to touch me without asking.

Once we can begin to recognize how much of our lives we (as white people) live without acknowledging how much freedom we have, then we can begin to see the differences that exist–and work to make sure others have the same privileges we do.

Please protest quietly…

How many times have I heard something like this said over my lifetime? Too many.

“Please don’t bother the status quo…it’s working just fine.” “Please stay in your place and everything will be okay.” “Violence isn’t the answer.” “Why can’t you just protest peacefully?”

The status quo isn’t working just fine. Too many people are stopped for walking while black…driving while black…standing in their yards while black…shopping while black. And don’t tell me those are isolated incidents. They’re not. They’re everyday fears for far too many Americans.

What is someone’s place? Under your knee? Out of sight?

I agree, violence isn’t the answer. But do we learn about the violence that has been perpetrated against an entire race because of their skin color? We might have heard about some lynchings…might even know about Emmett Till. But what about the Tulsa Race Massacre? the Tuskegee experiment? And are we aware–really aware–of the brutality of the lynchings?

Not to mention the long list of people of color who have been victims of police brutality in our own time…and the systemic racism that makes it acceptable for white folks to make threats and carry weapons into a state legislature, threatening violence–and yet be allowed to walk around freely, while people of color are shot, even when they are on the ground with their hands up, trying to protect an autistic client.

Devos-Funded Group Organizes Protest Against Michigan Governor's ...
Shooting of Charles Kinsey - Wikipedia

Why can’t you just protest peacefully? What we really mean is, please don’t get in my face with your stories and your anger. For a generation, people of color have been trying to get us to listen. Every Sunday, Colin Kaepernick protested peacefully to try to get us to listen.

We didn’t.

These current protests aren’t about one man’s death. They’re about years of brutality…of being ignored…of being mistreated. They’re about years of trying to get us white folk to listen–and nothing else seems to get our attention.

If we will not listen–truly listen–as people of color try to share their experiences with us…if we are not willing to at least try to put aside our biases (whether they are conscious or unconscious), then eventually we will hear “a song of angry [people] who will not be slaves again.”


I can almost guarantee that any discussion about the events in the United States over the last several days will be met by somebody saying “But…”

  • But violence and looting isn’t the answer.
  • But if he hadn’t resisted, he’d have been fine.
  • But the police were just doing their jobs.
  • But…
  • But…
  • But…

You can fill in the gaps.

While I don’t condone violence and looting, all of this deflects from what I believe is important. A black man was handcuffed by white police, placed in a position that they were trained was dangerous, had a knee placed on his neck for over 8 minutes–and kept there, even after he became unconscious, and died. It was an unnecessary death.

One death in this way is too many. But–and yes, I’m using that word–this is not the first time situations like this have happened. Unarmed black people–or people legally carrying–shot by white police, who then either face no charges or are found not guilty.

Don’t tell me they deserved it. Just don’t even go there.

Tell me why white men, armed with weapons and having made threats, were allowed to enter a state legislature, wander around with their weapons and then leave on their own with no police action.

Tell me why white men charged with multiple murders are captured and handcuffed and treated politely.

Tell me why neo-Nazis protesting violently in Charlottesville are “good people” while African-Americans are “thugs.”

Tell me why black people, peacefully protesting brutality they see in their communities, are almost always met with police in riot gear, armed with pepper spray and mace, while white protests are not.

Tell me why a black/Latino CNN camera crew is arrested, even after showing their credentials and asking the police to just tell them where they want them to move to…while a white CNN reporter is simply politely asked to move back.

Tell me just how African-Americans are supposed to have their voices heard.

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When we stop saying “but…” and start listening, then maybe, just maybe we can find ways of healing.

All children of God…

I’ve been trying to figure out how to say what I am feeling. Yesterday I unfriended someone on Facebook. I was sorry to do that, but I did so because they posted a meme that was a slam at those who find God through Islam. I cannot and will not tolerate comments against another’s faith journey.

I am a follower of the Way–of the one known as Jesus. That is how I have found my path to the Divine.

But I am not arrogant enough to believe that this is the only path to the Divine. It is my path. But the Divine is bigger than I can comprehend…than any of us can comprehend. As the Apostle Paul (from my tradition) said:

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us.

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. (I Corinthians 13:11-12 The Message)

All religions…all faith traditions…have adherents who allow that tradition to bring out the best in them. Likewise, all religions…all faith traditions…have adherents who use their beliefs to dominate, to attack those who are different.

But at the end of the day, we are all children of God. When we are willing to listen to each other with open minds and open hearts, we can learn more about who God is–and who we are.

The One I worship calls me to share what I have found to be true…but also to listen to what others have found to be true.

We cannot get tired…

There has been so much going on over the last couple of months…life changes coming at us in rapid succession.

We have also been overwhelmed with news reports…lots of news reports with conflicting information. Scientists and doctors say one thing; politicians say another.

And we have a president who–instead of trying to unite us to pull together to get through this pandemic–instead encourages division and eggs on those who want life to quickly go back to the way it was.

It’s exhausting! It wears us out…and we sometimes just want to dig a hole, jump in, and pull it in after us so we don’t have to deal with all this “stuff” any more.

But we can’t afford to do that.

We have to keep supporting science-based information. We have to keep listening to those who are dealing with this virus on the front lines–to what they are telling us to do in order to try to keep everyone safe.

We have to keep working to share what is true–not what someone wishes is true.

Living in an alternate fantasy universe where you can just snap your fingers and have things change is a nice dream, but it’s the stuff of science fiction, not reality. Reality is messy…difficult…and definitely doesn’t always go the way we hope it would.

This pandemic isn’t through with us yet–as much as we might like it to be.

We have to keep on keeping on. Take a rest when needed…and then get back up. We have to listen to those whose life experiences have taught them how to be resilient through continued trauma. We have to support each other in those things that are true and positive. We have to stand tall–and speak out against those things that put down others…that create a toxic environment.

We have to keep on keeping on.

How do we live nonviolently?

A while back I attended a workshop on living nonviolently. That’s a topic that has interested me off an on for a long time. But how do we do it?

I was a young adult during the chaos of the civil rights actions in the 1960s…and was impressed by the stories and videos of other young people my age who calmly faced snarling dogs, fire hoses, police brutality. How did they do it? Could I have done it?

I was also impressed by a scene in the movie Gandhi when he led a peaceful march on the salt works. Men lining up calmly and quietly, several abreast, watching the men ahead of them being clubbed down…and then stepping up quietly to take their turn. How did they do it?

Jesus called those who are peacemakers “blessed.” What does it mean to be a peacemaker?

Sometimes that means stepping into situations of violence and taking blows…without returning them.

Sometimes that means spending time holding individuals and situations up in prayer.

Sometimes that means writing…elected officials, newspapers, whoever else might have influence.

None of us can do all of that. But each of us can do something. If we don’t, then we are part of the .

But I come back again to the question: what does it mean to live nonviolently?

It’s more than just not killing someone (or something). It’s more than just taking action. It’s a complete way of life–because actions come out of our thoughts.

It requires a transformation…of ourselves, our communities, our governments…our world.

Some might say that living this way is impossible. But continuing to live the way we are is not sustainable. Something has to change! And that has to start with us.

We do not need guns and bombs to bring peace, we need love and compassion – Mother Teresa

I believe much trouble and blood would be saved if we opened our hearts more. – Chief Joseph

Any type of violence is against God, against religion, against spirituality, against humanity, and against nature. Maturity comes only through non-violence, love, and all-inclusiveness. – Amit Ray

Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one’s whole being into the being of another….World peace through nonviolent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed. Thus we must begin anew. Nonviolence is a good starting point. – Martin Luther King, Jr.


Bearing false witness?

Sometimes as I scroll through my FB feed, I find myself just shaking my head and wondering what on earth I can say.

I don’t have a problem with people sharing opinions–there are many things we can have different opinions about. And often as we share those opinions back and forth, we may discover new insights…find out new things about each other…look at the world in a different way.

But there is a difference between sharing opinions and encouraging conspiracy theories! When I see someone sharing something that is described as “the real truth” or a “tell-all documentary” the red flags go up for me. Yes, there may indeed (and often are) different valid interpretations of scientific information…but interpretations that have been vetted and peer reviewed are far different from “they [whoever ‘they’ is] don’t want you to have this truth.”

If you’ve read my blog for very long, you know that I am a follower of the one we call Jesus. What does that have to do with this? Quite a bit, actually.

He showed his followers a new way of life–a one in which they didn’t need to be afraid. Use wisdom in our behaviors, certainly–but not to be fearful of anything and everything–and certainly not to cause others to live in fear.

As an observant Jew, he also lived according to what we call the Ten Commandments–and–this is the important one for me–one of those commandments is to not to bear false witness.

Conspiracy theories are a manifestation of that false witness. They come from living in fear.

I choose to live in trust. Yes, I will research information…yes, I will be wise in the actions I take during this pandemic. But I will not listen to those who claim to have some kind of hidden or secret information that “they” don’t want me to have.

That is not healthy. It is not wise. It is immoral, and I will not condone it.