I read a very interesting post this week on Facebook. The post was shared by and author who identified herself as “Christina.” The post addressed a number of issues related to the present political climate in the context of race and privilege. One statement in particular stood out for me in the article. “To people of color like me” Christina stated, “the movement toward a more level playing field is occurring at a painfully glacial pace. But to many white men, the change is happening so fast and it all seems so painful! Sociologists Henderson and Herring note that when white men begin to feel the effects of equality (e.g., they realize that they no longer receive preferential treatment or have power over others), it feels like discrimination to them. Being treated like everyone else is not discrimination (in fact, it is the textbook definition of equality). But when you’ve lived atop the racial hierarchy for your entire life and grown accustomed to preferential treatment and disproportionate amounts of power, it’s emotionally painful and destabilizing when they’re taken away.”
I have been thinking about this statement all week. I see its reality in so many places. I see it being lived out in so many situations ─ those named in the article to be sure ─ but also well beyond just race and gender. I see it being lived out where shifts are bringing about change and those who have held power in the past are seeing a growing equality as discrimination. I see it in the culture as a whole and I see it in the Church as well. I see it in others and I have felt it in me. It is a reality to which we need to pay attention.
My hope is that we might allow God’s Spirit to work in all of us when we encounter that rising tide of angst that usually accompanies this experience. My hope and prayer is that we might invite God’s Spirit to check us when we encounter that rising indignation about how we are being treated and seek to humbly discover if it might be that we are experiencing exactly what Christina is naming from a privilege perspective.
These are not easy things to admit. As the article points out all our defenses go up when we are confronted with this experience. But as followers of Christ, it behooves us to constantly be looking for the places where our privilege may be affecting others and where we may be holding on tightly to power. And when we find those places, to then as Jesus did, pick up the towel and basin and choose the path that leads to life.