This morning I tweeted out two sentences that were in the sermon I preached this past weekend at The Village. Both sentences were meant to address and serve as an illustration of “white privilege,” the idea that white people, in most cases, have easier paths than most black people.
The challenge with white privilege is that most white people cannot see it. We assume that the experiences and opportunities afforded to us are the same afforded to others. Sadly, this simply isn’t true. Privileged people can fall into the trap of universalizing experiences and laying them across other people’s experiences as an interpretive lens. For instance, a privileged person may not understand why anyone would mistrust a public servant simply because they have never had a viable reason to mistrust a public servant. The list goes on.
What is so deceptive about white privilege is that it is different from blatant racism or bias. A privileged person’s heart may be free from racist thoughts or biased attitudes, but may still fail to see how the very privilege afforded to him or her shapes how he or she interprets and understands the situations and circumstances of people without privilege.
I don’t have to warn my son in the same ways that a black dad has to warn his son. I have never had to coach my son on how to keep his hands out of his pockets when going through a convenience store. Many of my black brothers are having these conversations with their boys now. Again, the list goes on.
It has been my experience that there are few things that enrage a large portion of white people like addressing racism and privilege. We want to move past it, but we are not past it. Clearly, we are not past it. So, let’s press in to it.
One of the questions I received from a friend had to do with adding the hashtag #Ferguson. The question was innocent enough. “What does white privilege have to do with what happened to Mike Brown?” Let me try to quickly answer. The facts are still being debated, and I am hopeful that justice will take place once those can be established, but the way white people tend to perceive the situation in Ferguson, Missouri and in situations like this is through distinctively white lenses. We believe that our experiences, histories and benefits of our hard work are universal experiences for everyone. This is simply not true. I’m not a sociologist, but I’ve read enough, lived in enough places and have enough friends that I’m beginning to understand what motivates the frustrations and anger that can exist deep in the hearts of young black men.
In all of this, for the black and the white (and every other color), our only hope is the gospel. Until there is an acknowledgement of privilege and repentance for discrimination, the kingdom and what God has purchased for us in Christ isn’t going to be displayed and lives are still going to be destroyed. It’s systemic, historic and horrific. Might we be men and women with calloused hands and knees as we seek the Lord for racial reconciliation.