One of the things that I value most about our church is their willingness to tackle and discuss ‘difficult’ issues, so Shane and I were quick to register for the latest series of depth classes entitled ‘Faith and Race’.  Race has always been one of those walking-on-eggshells kind of topics for me – out of fear of saying anything ignorant or offensive, I’ve usually chosen the path of avoidance when it comes to discussions on race.  It was nice to be in a room with so many people who were willing to step up take the risk of saying something that might rub someone else the wrong way, for the sake of us all learning about each other and about the realities of a racially unjust world.

There were a couple of topics in particular that really struck a chord with me.  One of these was the discussion on ‘white privilege’.  During our second evening together, we were all asked to fill out a questionnaire composed of true/false statements such as ‘I can choose a bandage in “flesh color” and know it will more or less match my skin color’, or ‘If a traffic cop pulls me over, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race’.  I answered ‘True’ to all 17 statements.  A perfect score.  But as other people in my group shared their scores of 10, 9, 8, etc, I became increasingly ashamed of my A+ paper.  I felt guilty that I couldn’t relate to other people’s stories of discrimination and inequality.  I was living in an easier, more comfortable kind of world, blissfully enjoying race as a total ‘non-issue’.  And so I was embarrassed by my privilege.  Then I read the questions again, stewed awhile, and the more I thought about it, my guilt transitioned into defensiveness.  I didn’t ask for these so-called ‘privileges’.  I wasn’t responsible for the production white-person Band-Aids, or fashion magazines filled with supermodels primarily of my same skin color.  These were things beyond my control, whether they were fair or not.  Sure, Shane and I certainly live privileged lives, but we have worked hard for things like our home, our well-stocked fridge, our clothes-filled closets.  So why should I feel guilty?  This period of defensiveness was thankfully short-lived as I reminded myself that the church leaders I value and trust were not intending to persecute me because of my race – there had to be a constructive lesson behind all of this.  And so I wrestled with this issue of ‘white privilege’ further.  And I came to recognize that I do regularly enjoy a number of unearned advantages based on the fact that I am part of the racial majority.  But what was I supposed to do with this realization?  I was happy to find that one of the topics up for discussion at the learning conference that took place at Quest yesterday was, ‘White Privilege – Now What?’  Jason read my thoughts as he expressed the difficulty in figuring out what to do with the knowledge that we still live in a very racially unjust world, where white people often enjoy certain benefits at the expense of racial minorities.  He didn’t give us a checklist of things we could do to right these wrongs, or a twelve-step process for obliterating white privilege, but his challenge to all of us was powerful: he asked us to allow ourselves to live in discomfort – to be ‘agitators for justice’, to be daily aware of and uncomfortable with the injustice of white privilege.  God has not called us to live blissfully ignorant lives.  No, I don’t know yet exactly how, where, or when I’ll be called to action, but I’m definitely walking around with wider, more aware eyes now.  That’s a start.