Bias from the Bottom: Week 2
Learning to See
Monday, March 28, 2016
I would have never seen my own white privilege if I had not been forced outside of my dominant white culture by travel, by working in the jail, by hearing stories from counselees, and frankly, by making a complete fool of myself in so many social settings—most of which I had the freedom to avoid! And so recognition was slow in coming. I am not only white, but I am male, overeducated, clergy (from cleros, the separated ones), a Catholic celibate, healthy, and American. I profited from white privilege on so many fronts that I had to misread the situation many, many times before I began to feel what others feel and see what others could clearly see. Many must have just rolled their eyes and hopefully forgiven me! Education about white privilege is the best doorway to help those of us who think we are not racists to recognize that structurally and often unconsciously we still are. Our easy advancement was too often at the cost of others not advancing at all.
Power never surrenders without a fight. If your entire life has been to live unquestioned in your position of power—a power that was culturally given to you, but you think you earned—there is almost no way you will give it up without major failure, suffering, humiliation, or defeat. The trouble is we cannot program that. All we can do is stop shoring up our power by our de facto idolization of money, possessions, power positions, superficial entertainment, the idolization of celebrities and athletes, and the war economy. All of these depend on our common enthrallment with being on top. As long as we really want to be on top and would do the same privileged things if we could get there, there will never be an actual love of equality, true freedom, or the Gospel. This challenges all of us to change and not just those folks who temporarily are “on the top.”
Jesus’ basic justice agenda was simple living, humility, and love of neighbor. We all have to live this way ourselves. From that position, God can do God’s work rather easily.
Gateway to Silence:
Open my eyes.
Adapted from Richard Rohr’s interview with Romal Tune, “Richard Rohr on White Privilege,” https://sojo.net/articles/richard-rohr-white-privilege.