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.