Reflections of a Middle-Aged WASP

By  |  June 10, 2020 | 

Don’t let my last name fool you. I am a middle-aged WASP, a privileged white woman.

I have never thought of myself as particularly privileged. I grew up a U.S. military brat in a distinctly middle-class family. I’m not unusually smart, or wealthy, or talented, or beautiful.

But it has never occurred to me to worry about whether I was safe in my neighborhood or my school. Or if I would be able to get access to high quality healthcare when I needed it. Growing up, it never occurred to me to wonder if I could get a reasonable education that would lead to a decent job and enable me to support myself and my family. Or whether someone at school or in a store or just out on the street might be fearful of me, or take a dislike to me, or even call the police, just because of the way I look. It certainly never occurred to me to worry about whether I would be treated with fairness and respect by people in law enforcement, should I ever have a reason to interact with them.

And that’s the problem with privilege. I didn’t recognize my privileges because I simply took them for granted. It never occurred to me…

In this world I am defined in so many ways. As a loving wife, stepmom, and grandma. As a capable professional; a valued business partner and colleague. A convivial and caring friend. A productive and law-abiding member of my community. But lurking underneath the surface of each of these definitions is that unspoken one: white.

How can it be that there are so many Americans who aren’t able to take these basic privileges for granted, just because they were born with a different skin color? Why does it take a horrifically cruel and public homicide to get us to finally take seriously the systemic racial disparities and injustices that are a routine part of life for so many in America? And now that we finally do seem to be taking them seriously, what comes next?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. And there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said more eloquently by others. But I do know that I can’t stay silent, for to be silent is to be complicit. I need to speak up and add my voice to the thousands of other voices crying out for change.

Above everything else in my life, the definition of me that matters most is that I am a woman of faith. And I know that God is not a respecter of persons, having declared that there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female in Christ. There is neither white nor black. And He cares deeply about social justice in the broadest sense, commanding His people not to oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. Not to devise evil against others in our hearts. To love our neighbors as ourselves and to let that love be without hypocrisy.

I have believed these things all my life. But now I am beginning to consider them in a different way, as truths that require something beyond intellectual assent. They require a voice, and they require action. Our world will never be perfect, but together, maybe we can make it a little more just.

So this is my prayer for us. May we challenge each other in respectful dialogue so that we might introspect and begin to truly seek. May we teach each other so that we might learn and eventually understand. Beginning to understand, may we help each other turn knowledge into wisdom. And may we engage each other so that wisdom may turn to action and bring about justice.

Open your mouth for the mute,
For the rights of all the unfortunate.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.
Proverbs 31:8-9

7 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Melinda Huffman June 10, 2020 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    One of the most caring, thoughtful pieces I have read during this time. Thank you for sharing your insights and wisdom, yet again.

  2. Avatar
    F Matt Briwn, Jr June 10, 2020 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    Deeply appreciate your comments and as a white male I am stunned by my privilege and now acutely aware of the level of injustice perpetrated without my awareness or protest until Just Mercy came out a few years back and dear God, I am wide awake now and grieving this terrible reality and am committed as a follower of Jesus to begin taking part in this dialogue of confession, lamenting and a journey toward racial reconciliation. It feels like climbing Everest! I will spend the rest of my life in this endeavor!

  3. Tracy Cardin
    Tracy Cardin June 10, 2020 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    Beautifully said. And so impactful. Thank you Leslie.

  4. Avatar
    leif hass June 11, 2020 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    thank you. i too feel the need to do more but how? voting for one

  5. Leslie Flores
    Leslie Flores June 12, 2020 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    Hi Leif, your question is one of many I don’t know the answer to. There will be lots of varying opinions about what we can and should be doing. And I suspect that the specific right action(s) for one person will be somewhat different from the right action(s) for another person, depending on circumstances. But I am committed as a first step to opening my mind and learning as much as I can by reading, watching commentaries, and engaging my black friends and professional acquaintances in discussion about these issues. Hopefully new, broader perspectives will lead to better clarity about specific actions I can take to help move this issue forward.

  6. Avatar
    Dee Mann Aust June 14, 2020 at 5:01 pm - Reply

    Leslie, this is a beautiful and thoughtful piece. It reflects my own ignorance and faith beliefs. I truly believe there is room in our hearts, lives, and accomplishments for everyone. I also now see there are systemic barriers—schools, politics, justice system, and more—that must be addressed.

  7. Avatar
    Titilola BRITTO June 15, 2020 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    Thank you Leslie for a powerful piece.
    For those with privilege; introspection and self awareness and a willingness to speak up are needed.
    For those who have unrecognized bias, we need more safe space truth and reconciliation discussions to move them, us and the country forward. We all have more in common than we think.
    At the end of the day, if I need a pint of blood, the question is about blood type not “skin type”, for we are all just one “human race”.

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About the Author: Leslie Flores

Leslie Flores
Leslie Flores is a founding partner at Nelson Flores Hospital Medicine Consultants, a consulting practice that has specialized in helping clients enhance the effectiveness and value of hospital medicine programs as well as those in other hospital-focused practice specialties since 2004. Ms. Flores began her career as a hospital executive, after receiving a BS degree in biological sciences at the University of California at Irvine and a Master’s in healthcare administration from the University of Minnesota. In addition to her leadership experience in hospital operations, business development, managed care and physician relations, she has provided consulting, training and leadership coaching services for hospitals, physician groups, and other healthcare organizations. Ms. Flores is an active speaker and writer on hospitalist practice management topics and serves on SHM’s Practice Analysis and Annual Meeting Committees. She serves as an informal advisor to SHM on practice management-related issues and helps to coordinate SHM’s bi-annual State of Hospital Medicine Survey.

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