me & white supremacy, day one

Note: One of my Lenten disciplines is to work through the me & white supremacy workbook by Layla Saad.

I got to the end of Day One reading and thought “I know all of this”. Saad says not to be “self-congratulatory” and I honestly think I wasn’t. I guess this reveals a gulf between my awareness and my action. I am aware that I have white privilege, but I didn’t show up at the vigils for police shootings last week. I look at the list from Peggy McIntosh (White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack) and see #15: “I did not have to educate our children to be aware fo systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.” Maybe it’s the way it’s spaced on the page, but I got through the first part (“aware of systemic racism”) and thought “I do try to make my kids aware”. Then the line skipped to “for their own daily physical protection”. I felt myself get caught. I have to teach my kids for their moral compasses to be trained aright. But the risk is clearly borne on people of color.

I’ve gone and printed out the entire original paper (Peggy McIntosh) and am going over the 50 daily effects of white privilege. Some of them I don’t fully get. For example #30: “If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn’t a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have.” But as I went through the 50, the words that stood out to me were “casual” (#11), “oblivious” (#22), “easily” (#26, #44). These strike me as the primary feature or leading functional feature of white privilege. It’s so damn easy!

So even as I have had understandings reinforced, I’ve also had my failing re-exposed. Question #3 Saad asks hits home: “What have you learned about the ways you specifically wield this privilege that do harm (intended or not)? Dig deep.”

So Vancouver PD has shot 4 people in the last 6 weeks. Three have died. Race was a factor in two of them at least. There have been vigils held as well as community forums. As a clergy person assigned to this community I am called to lead on such matters. And I have been largely absent. I’ve defaulted to staying close to family, dealing with GC2019, etc., as ways of rationalizing my inaction. I fear backlash from the police community, even though I largely admire their work. I fear this would be a breaking point at OUMC. And I have a weak stomach for conflict. But those are all rationalizations. I’m called to work to dismantle racism. As a baptized Christian, I vowed to “resist evil, injustice and oppression in all its forms”. I’ve failed in my obedience to those vows. I think for me to be successful in “pulling out white supremacy,” I must get closer to those most harmed by it. Saad asks “what have you learned about your white privilege that makes you uncomfortable?” The honest answer: nothing. It’s a gorgeous spring day and I don’t have to care about anything. I can revel in the amazing weather in my sequestered lily-white town.


Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay

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