(From the Stations of the Cross in Lodwar Cathedral, Kenya)
“Not everything that is faced can be changed but nothing can be changed that is not faced.”
— James Baldwin
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.”
— Edmund Burke
“There can be no justice without peace and no peace without justice,”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
Francis E. Kendall defines white privilege as “having greater access to power and
resources than people of color (in the same situation)”*. It does not mean that white
people don’t struggle. Nor does it mean that white people don’t earn their
accomplishments. The key to the meaning is in parentheses. When the challenge is
comparable being white has the advantage.
White privilege expects and receives the benefit of the doubt. If I get pulled over for
speeding I can assume I was in fact speeding. I can assume that I will not be pulled out
of my car and searched without provocation. I can assume that the encounter will end
with a ticket, not a bullet. I can assume normal. Honestly I don’t want this to change for
me. I want everyone to expect respect. I want normal to be normal for everyone.
In 2015, Daniel Cubias, creator of The Hispanic Fanatic website wrote about the term
white privilege. He said that because ‘marketing is everything” the term should not be
used. “The problem with white privilege is that the concept is painfully easy to refute. If
you’re explaining, you’re losing”. But I think a lot has happened since he wrote that
article. I think that many white people have processed the concept of white privilege
and their initial fragile responses have given way to acceptance through enlightenment,
education, and honesty.
It’s painful to think how unempowered my ancestors felt in the cruel dominance of white
supremacy but I refuse to perpetuate that helplessness. I am committed to change this
oppressive system. Silence is no longer an option. We can and will do better.
I believe we will be able to challenge other oppressive systems in our society and we
will do so because we have utterly vanquished white supremacy, outgrown and shed
our white fragility and planted our flag on common ground.
*Diversity in the Classroom and Understanding White Privilege: Creating Pathways to
Authentic Relationships by Francis E. Kendall
Lord God, author of the universe;
your beloved Son carried a cross hewn of the wood of our iniquities;
grant us strength and courage to take up our crosses and follow him,
although the way is narrow, and the journey arduous.
We ask this in the name of your Son,
who lives and reigns in your heavenly kingdom.
We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and have been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent….Sometimes we’re fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we’re shattered by things we would never have chosen. But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning and healing.
A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. Ultimately there is nothing we can do but love. Dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as our friend.
— Dorothy Day
Hudson Valley Just Transition movement: GoodworkInstitute.org
Learning for Justice | Education Resources
National Radio Project / Making Contact : Social Justice Radio
Poor People’s Campaign – A National Call for Moral Revival
Black Lives Matter
Support a local project: Seasoned Gives – Community is our Expertise
In the News:
Black United Methodists Want Changes (nyac.com)
How to fight racism using science | Race | The Guardian
‘Renegades: Born in the USA’ Podcast – Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen
Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible | Making Contact Radio (radioproject.org)
Best White Privilege Podcasts (2021) (player.fm)
Seeing White – Scene on Radio
Podcast | Holy Post
the Antioch Podcast | Conversations About Biblical Antiracism
Straight white guy listening (swglistening.com)
How to be an Antiracist | Aspen Ideas with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. The NY Times Review: Isabel Wilkerson’s ‘Caste’ Is an ‘Instant American Classic’ About Our Abiding Sin – The New York Times (nytimes.com)
White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
How to Be an Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
Stamped by Ibrahim X. Kendi & Jason Reynolds
Black & White by Teesha Hadra & John Hambrick
Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad
Dear White Christians by Jennifer Harvey
People of color may find it difficult to speak to white people about white privilege and superiority. The white person may become defensive, and the person of color may feel obligated to comfort the white person because we live in a white-dominated environment. Racial stressors may cause a range of defensive behaviors and emotions. White people may act in certain ways when people of color discuss racism. Their reactions may include:
– leaving the stress-inducing situation
By behaving in this way, white people may prevent people of color from attempting to talk about racism with them. Different sources of racial stress that white people can experience may come from:
– a person claiming that a white person’s views are racist
– a person of color talking about their racial experiences and perspectives
– a person of color not protecting a white person’s feelings about racism
– a fellow white person not agreeing with another white person’s perspectives on racism
– a white person receiving feedback that their behavior or actions had a racist impact
– a white person being presented with a person of color in a position of leadership
Race is one of the most difficult subjects to talk about as a society or culture, in part because of how sensitive and defensive people can be by nature. Watching a movie can take away the confrontational aspect race relations that might scare people.
Where to watch these movies (note that these may require subscription accounts or special purchasing to view. The movies may also be available on other streaming sites):
Roots is an American television miniseries based on Alex Haley’s 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The series first aired on ABC in January 1977.
Watch Roots: The Complete Miniseries | Prime Video (amazon.com)
In 2016, The History Channel created this 4-part series: Watch Roots Season 1 | Prime Video (amazon.com)
13th is a 2016 American documentary film by director Ava DuVernay. The film explores the “intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States;” it is titled after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted in 1865, which abolished slavery throughout the United States and ended involuntary servitude except as a punishment for conviction of a crime.
13TH | Netflix Official Site
12 Years a Slave is a 2013 biographical period-drama film and an adaptation of the 1853 slave memoir Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free African-American man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C., by two conmen in 1841 and sold into slavery.
Watch 12 Years a Slave | Prime Video (amazon.com)
Selma is a 2014 historical drama film directed by Ava DuVernay and written by Paul Webb. It is based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches initiated and directed by James Bevel and led by Martin Luther King Jr., Hosea Williams, and John Lewis.
Watch Selma | Prime Video (amazon.com)
More viewing recommendation lists:
19 Movies About Race Every White Person Needs To Watch
Streaming Shows That Will Help You Examine White Privilege
Movies, Racial Bias, Privilege and “Whiteness”
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism is a 2018 book written by Robin DiAngelo about race relations in the United States. An academic with experience in diversity training, DiAngelo coined the term “white fragility” in 2011 to describe any defensive instincts or reactions that a white person experiences when questioned about race or made to consider their own race. In White Fragility, DiAngelo views racism in the United States as systemic and often perpetuated unconsciously by individuals. She recommends against viewing racism as committed intentionally by “bad people”.
View this video with Robin DiAngelo from the UMC General Commission on Religion and Race: (127) Deconstructing White Privilege with Dr. Robin DiAngelo – YouTube
– Invite 7 white friends to read and discuss one of the books on anti-racism, white privilege, or white supremacy
– Join the Black Lives Matter organization and participate in their activities
– Join NY Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement
– Write letters to or call NY legislators asking them to pass the HALT bill to limit solitary confinement to 15 days or less like the following states: Arkansas, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey and Texas
– Find out if your local police force uses body cams. If not, write to your town government and police chief to advocate for it.
– Find out if your town employs evidence-based police de-escalation trainings. If not, write to advocate for it.
– Write on social media, newspaper editors expressing your desire for social justice and invite others to do so as well.
– Support black owned businesses, for example Hudson Valley Cheesecake.
– Watch “Thirteenth” and invite friends and family to watch it as well.
– Address racism when it rears its ugly head. When Uncle Harry makes a racist comment, calmly say, “I see it differently…”
– Don’t be silent about a racist joke. Silence is compliance. Say, “That makes me uncomfortable.”
– Participate In reparations, which are not only monetary. Share your time, skills, knowledge with BIPOC.
– Seek out a diverse group of friends. Practice real friendship. Listen when they talk about their experiences.
– Know our American history. Watch “Roots,” “Selma,” “Pose” (Netflix)
– Join YWCA USA’s 15th annual Stand Against Racism campaign taking place April 22 – 25, 2021
– Write to your government, your state legislators to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day
– Send a card or a letter to Governor Cuomo requesting changing Columbus Day. His address is NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224. Or email: https://www.governor.ny.gov/content/governor-contact-form
Signs of Hope…
.Black Progress: How far we’ve come, and how far we have to go (brookings.edu):
Let’s start with a few contrasting numbers.
60 and 2.2. In 1940, 60 percent of employed black women worked as domestic servants; today the number is down to 2.2 percent, while 60 percent hold white- collar jobs.
44 and 1. In 1958, 44 percent of whites said they would move if a black family became their next door neighbor; today the figure is 1 percent.
18 and 86. In 1964, the year the great Civil Rights Act was passed, only 18 percent of whites claimed to have a friend who was black; today 86 percent say they do, while 87 percent of blacks assert they have white friends.
Progress is the largely suppressed story of race and race relations over the past half-century. And thus it’s news that more than 40 percent of African Americans now consider themselves members of the middle class. Forty-two percent own their own homes, a figure that rises to 75 percent if we look just at black married couples. Black two-parent families earn only 13 percent less than those who are white. Almost a third of the black population lives in suburbia.
Because these are facts the media seldom report, the black underclass continues to define black America in the view of much of the public. Many assume blacks live in ghettos, often in high-rise public housing projects. Crime and the welfare check are seen as their main source of income. The stereotype crosses racial lines. Blacks are even more prone than whites to exaggerate the extent to which African Americans are trapped in inner-city poverty. In a 1991 Gallup poll, about one-fifth of all whites, but almost half of black respondents, said that at least three out of four African Americans were impoverished urban residents. And yet, in reality, blacks who consider themselves to be middle class outnumber those with incomes below the poverty line by a wide margin.
Black progress over the past half-century has been impressive, conventional wisdom to the contrary notwithstanding. And yet the nation has many miles to go on the road to true racial equality. “I wish I could say that racism and prejudice were only distant memories, but as I look around I see that even educated whites and African American…have lost hope in equality,” Thurgood Marshall said in 1992. A year earlier The Economist magazine had reported the problem of race as one of “shattered dreams.” In fact, all hope has not been “lost,” and “shattered” was much too strong a word, but certainly in the 1960s the civil rights community failed to anticipate just how tough the voyage would be. (Thurgood Marshall had envisioned an end to all school segregation within five years of the Supreme Court s decision in Brown v. Board of Education.) Many blacks, particularly, are now discouraged. A 1997 Gallup poll found a sharp decline in optimism since 1980; only 33 percent of blacks (versus 58 percent of whites) thought both the quality of life for blacks and race relations had gotten better.
Thus, progress—by many measures seemingly so clear—is viewed as an illusion, the sort of fantasy to which intellectuals are particularly prone. But the ahistorical sense of nothing gained is in itself bad news. Pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If all our efforts as a nation to resolve the “American dilemma” have been in vain—if we’ve been spinning our wheels in the rut of ubiquitous and permanent racism, as Derrick Bell, Andrew Hacker, and others argue—then racial equality is a hopeless task, an unattainable ideal. If both blacks and whites understand and celebrate the gains of the past, however, we will move forward with the optimism, insight, and energy that further progress surely demands.
Be inspired by this opinion piece by David Brooks “A Christian Vision of Social Justice.”:
David Brooks: A Christian vision of social justice | Commentary | myheraldreview.com
And more inspiration:
Land in Black Hands | Kingston Land Trust
Seed Song Farm & Center – Home: Pay your Stimulus Check Forward to feed families in need this growing season: your federal coronavirus stimulus payment to Seed Song Center to feed low-income and immigrant families in need this growing season– many of whom have been financially impacted by the coronavirus. Seed Song Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and all donations are tax deductible
Special thanks to Carol Bialy and Sharon Roth for researching this social justice issue
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