We need to have an honest conversation about white privilege. The current one just isn’t working.
Yes, there is such a thing as white privilege. It’s quite common for a white thief to get away with simply paying back his victims while a black person who does the same thing get 3 to 5 years in prison and ten years of probation.
But the myth is that privilege is somehow confined to one particular race.
There’s just something funny about the Black Lives Matter activist drinking a $12 cup of coffee while typing away on his $2000 laptop about the horrors of white privilege. The white kid in Boone County, West Virginia where they are about to close one third of their elementary schools might wonder where his white privilege has run off to. He might even have something to say about Activist Privilege.
I did my graduate work at an evangelical seminary. During my time there, I got to know guys who were certifiable geniuses. While I was writing papers just do get them out of the way, the papers these guys wrote were destined to one day become books. It was interesting to hear what these guys were going to do next. Many of them planned on continuing their education and getting doctoral degrees. They dreamed of getting accepted to Yale or Harvard or some other prestigious east coast school.
Most of them didn’t get in. But why? It wasn’t because they weren’t smart enough or didn’t work hard enough. Their rejection was due to the fact that those prestigious schools had a quota of how many evangelicals they would accept into their school of theology. My genius, evangelical friends suffered from Liberal Theology Privilege.
That’s one reason why our current conversation about white privilege needs to change. It acts as though no one else is or can be privileged.
The current remedy to white privilege is guilt. Beat yourself up for being white and avoid commenting on any social issues for a while and maybe, just maybe, you can appease the political correctness gods before it’s too late.
The Bible gives us a better remedy.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV)
Contentment is the enemy of greed and the opposite of guilt. When I am content, I rejoice with my neighbor when he works hard and saves wisely to pay cash for an automobile that I can’t afford. Contentment prevents me from looking down on him and from thinking that I’m somehow better than he is simply for having less.
But we aren’t content. We don’t know how to live when we are brought low. We think that everyone else needs to be brought low with us and that if they don’t they are evil. And we don’t know how to abound. We place our identity in what we have and we always want more. Without contentment, whether you’re poor or rich, white or black, male or female, you will always be greedy. Always.
There is a secret to successfully navigating our way through failure, success, privilege and greed.
Doing all things through Christ’s strength wasn’t written to help football teams win state championships. It was written for entitled people who think that they deserve more and who are tempted to hate others who have more. It was written for you and me.
In one way or another, we are all privileged. And we’ll do anything we can to both deny our privilege and keep it.
Jesus took a different approach with his privilege.
He gave it up. He didn’t give up being God. He didn’t give up his personhood or the essence of who he is. He just gave up his privilege.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:4-8 (ESV)
Maybe if we followed that example, instead of living in a perpetual state of guilt or self-righteousness, we would all start getting along a little better. All of this guilt and self-righteousenss is preventing us from loving one another. It’s a breeding ground for hate. But if we live with the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:4), we can begin to love our neighbor and pursue his good. Otherwise, when injustices happen to him, we’ll just think that he got what he deserved.
If you want to play the I’m Bigger, Badder, Richer and More Important Than You game, you’ll never win. There is always someone with a little more. Even Donald Trump can’t win that game. The same is true of the other game, the one called, I’m More Abused, Harassed, Rejected and Poor Than You Are. There is always someone with a little less. You’re not going to win.
So instead of basking in your privilege or seething at the privilege of others, be content with who you are and where God has you. Come to grips with the fact that, no matter your color, you are privileged. But instead of comparing your privilege to others, follow the example of Christ.
Put it to the side.
And move toward others in love.