The Moral Cost of Maintaining Privilege
We are all born good and innocent and deserving of the same shot in life.
But for eons, white guys have run the global conversation by suppressing other voices, taking away their shot.
And that needs a lot of work to end and fix that imbalance.
That first sentence is generally accepted as basic human rights. The second one is generally accepted as historically accurate. But the conclusion isn’t taken as read. And I’m so profoundly done with that. The negative impact of the current administration, the positive impact of movements like #blacklivesmatter and #timesup – events like those all seem to have pushed this truth into my face so that I just can’t use the privilege of laziness to ignore it any more.
Because it matters to me, because I believe it’s a fundamental part of what will make the world better, I’ve been making a conscious effort to seek out voices that aren’t white guys. But one of the ones that I have kept in rotation is the Rev. John Dorhauer, who leads the United Church of Christ. And recently, in two of his weekly messages (which I highly recommend), he explained so well why this is important.
Believe me, I get how supremely, frustratingly ironic it is to talk about this issue by amplifying yet another white dude saying something that has been said a million times. But it’s the most eloquently I’ve heard a powerful white dude say it. And that still has disproportionate value. So I think it’s worth doing.
“[T]here is a spiritual cost to maintaining privilege. As a white man, I need to see role models who teach me that my whiteness and my gender are not the cause of any power or wisdom or strength or wealth or intellect I might possess.
White men still believe that is true of them – and among the ‘teaching moments’ they experience that reinforce those notions are the movies they have seen over and over and over and over again where white men rescue women and fend off black and brown villains. That stereotype is reinforced in news programs through their childhood, formative, and adult years in which what they hear or read or see if filtered first through the lens of media outlets controlled by well over 90% white men. It is reinforced by teachers and pastors and authors and politicians whom they chose who are predominantly white and most often male. …
[F]orce yourself outside your comfort zone…. Wean yourself off of a diet of white hetero men writing your news, telling your stories, and starring in the lead roles. It will expand your intellectual, emotional, and spiritual horizons.”
“[A]s a white man, my spiritual health is compromised by my ongoing love affair with my whiteness. The longer I cling to a possessive investment in whiteness, the longer it will be that my soul and spirit will be free to fully embrace a God who loves all the same.
…Disowning, deconstructing, disabling, and dismantling my privilege isn’t something that happens just because I make a commitment to stop hating people who aren’t white. …I receive over and over again privileges that are mine simply because I am white. My agreement with white establishment is that I won’t admit that I receive these things because I am white. I will instead insist that I earned everything I have. My hard work, my determination, my education, my concerted effort to better my life and the life of my children are what I will cite as the cause of my good fortune.
Every time I do that, with malice aforethought or not, I remain complicit with the evils of racism and white privilege. And whether I acknowledge it or not, I sacrifice a piece of my spiritual health and wholeness.”
When we have to explain why representation matters, why privilege matters, why voices that haven’t been heard should be heard, we’re arguing for basic human rights.
This isn’t politics. This is morality. Don’t let yourself be confused otherwise.