A few months ago, one of my sons explained to me that I have something called “white privilege.” It was an interesting conversation. I told him that I have the privilege of being raised by hard-working parents who were raised by hard-working parents. I have the privilege of my Dad constantly insisting that I get some kind of education or training after high school (not graduating high school was never an option). I have the privilege of being raised to appreciate weekly worship and Bible study. I have led a privileged life, but I didn’t feel that it was related to the color of my skin.
My son said that, even if I didn’t realize it, there were things stacked in my favor my whole life. There are aspects of our society that just make things easier for white people. Although he wasn’t terribly convincing, he was passionate enough to encourage me to read up on the subject.
So I read the essay that started the discussion, or at least pushed it to the forefront, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” written in 1989 by a college professor, Peggy McIntosh. I encourage you to find it at the library or on the internet and read it. Although I’m still not a fan of the “white privilege” discussion in our society, my eyes were opened to the fact that maybe not everything is how I perceive it to be.
I think having your eyes opened every once in a while is a very good thing.
Obviously, there is a lot to see these days as the daily protests continue following the death of George Floyd and have expanded to the tearing down of statues and talk of defunding police. There’s even discussion of changing some long-standing team names.
But all of that is far away. I’m in Pine City. Am I a part of this? If I am, what can I do?
At the most basic level, I can watch my tongue. I can stop saying things that I shouldn’t. The biblical book of James compares the tongue to a small fire that sets the whole forest ablaze. Certainly we all let things creep into our way of speaking, or our Facebook memes, or tweets, or however you communicate, that are offensive and hurtful. They aren’t helping the situation; they’re making things worse. They should stop.
We also all need to stop believing everything we hear. A few weeks ago, I kept seeing a picture coming up my Facebook feed of a stone bench that was part of a veterans’ memorial that had been broken in half. The implication was that it had been damaged as a part of our current racial unrest. Five minutes of research informed me that the bench had been broken some years back by a woman who was suffering severe mental problems because she had been raped while in the army and her husband had recently died. All of the Facebook attention probably isn’t helping her mental state. She is white, not that it matters. I have found that the more sensational the claim, the more it needs to be investigated.
As Lutherans, we find it helpful to form a committee. Committee meetings are boring and sometimes painful, but it is always good to get everyone in the same room and find out how everyone thinks. In this case, it’s hard to form a committee, but try to talk to people who don’t agree with you, civilly. Find out who they are and what they think. That’s always a good thing.
I believe that was in the minds of our founding fathers when they formed the House of Representatives. It’s called The People’s House. Four hundred thirty-five people from all states and races and situations come together to govern our country. This would probably be a good time to send a message and encourage them, and our state legislature, to try to figure this problem out. Personally, I think they’ve let us down.
But, despite that last paragraph, it’s probably best not to get too political about this. I can say “Black lives matter,” because it’s true, they do. I believe that. I can, at the same time, disagree with the political organization Black Lives Matter because I disagree with them on a number of issues. Politics rarely fixes things. Love the people even if you hate their politics.
Jesus once said, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” I may live in Pine City, but if I care about my nation, and I do, I will seek out ways to help. I will try to be better, because I’m the only one I can fix.
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