My Guatemalan daughter, a year after living in my home when we were on our way to visit my family for Thanksgiving, said with tears running down her cheeks, “My family sometimes eats dirt because they’re so hungry and we are going to eat too much food for Thanksgiving!” Yes, I need words like these in my ear, in my life and in my relationships. I am privileged. I do not know what it’s like to live and not have access to food. I’ve never been so hungry I ate dirt.
In 2015 I heard Dr. Christena Cleveland at URBANA15, the largest missions conference in the world. I was rocked to learn I have a bias. I didn’t want this bias, nor did I invite it into my life, yet she helped me recognize it was there and gave me guidance on how to overcome it. White friends, I challenge you to listen to Dr. Christena Cleveland’s message I heard in 2015. Here’s the link where you can hear what I heard. I needed to hear this and I know many others need to hear it too:
I’ve tried and still try to pass my privilege on to others. I’m white. I’m educated. I’m OK. I know I have the power to help propel someone into a better situation or not. My word means something in our society. I’m white. I have an education and I have connections. I can be an advocate for someone or not. I’ve fostered several young people in my home, mostly teens. What happens when a young person leaves an underprivileged home and steps into a home like mine? A home full of privilege? I see the world through my privileged eyes; it’s my experience. It’s what I know. My kids see the world through their own experiences; it’s what they know. Some things we learn along the way aren’t right. Some aren’t right or wrong, but they’re not the best for me, for my kids or for our community. Only the wise empty the sack of beliefs they’re carrying around and examine each one. It’s time to dump out our sacks and decide one by one which things deserve to still be a part of our lives. Some things we need to work hard to leave behind. Some of my kids couldn’t or didn’t accept what I offered them in my home. I’d walk an extra mile for each one of them to achieve what they choose to do in life.
“Jesus is for poor people too.” These words were an answer to a question I asked students on a MHMA field trip. We took our students of various colors to a live nativity. My heart broke. I had no idea she sensed an economic barrier between our all white middle class volunteers and her black family living in poverty. To her it probably stuck out like a sore thumb but to me, I just loved her and wanted her to know Jesus. I was oblivious. I learned a lot that day. I’ve learned to share life together, to be friends, to value all people no matter their status or skin color. I’ve learned that if I think I know it all I really know nothing and will learn nothing. I learn from others and they learn from me. I still have to watch myself, especially when I feel a bit of fear. I too am a work in progress.
I hope God is proud of how I use my privilege. I didn’t choose it. I was born into it. I can use it to degrade others or lift them up. Many things I don’t understand, so I have to commit to listening, to loving and to acting in a way God would have me to. Here’s another good listen when Dr. Cleveland addressed CRU staff in 2015:
Many of us white people are asking what we can do in these days where racism abounds. Here’s a few places to start:
- I challenge you to listen. Dr. Cleveland has been challenging our culture for years now and in 2015 she challenged me as I heard her. It’s time to listen, search ourselves and repent of biases that we may not even realize we have. I challenge you to watch these speeches I’ve provided for you in this post by Dr. Cleveland and respond accordingly. Be brave, feel uncomfortable! It’s healthy to hear and learn from someone that’s different from us. I can pass my privilege to others or I can use it to degrade others.
- I challenge is to move out of our comfort zones and be extra kind to people we do not know, especially people who are different from us. Just today I’m training myself to be more aware of my surroundings. As I exited me car at work I saw a family taking a walk, an African American family, and I normally would have kept walking but I stopped and engaged with them in conversation. This is small but it widens my circle and even small efforts make the world a better place.
- Educate yourself. I believe the roots of racism are full of ignorance. It’s time to learn, to read, to engage in conversation with someone seeking the knowledge we need to stop oppressing any group. Read the stories of people of color. Join a group where you can make friends of color. You’ll gain a great blessing!
- Extend your privilege to others. How? Get to know people of color and seek to make their pathway easier in any way you can. I help high school graduates whose parents know nothing about college fill out applications, I help steer them towards a job. I’m a reference for them. I lovingly guide those who will listen. I speak truth that this is hard but they can do it. I did it because I had support and now it’s my turn to support others.
What are you doing with your privilege? My Guatemalan daughter just graduated from college. She crossed the finish line and is job searching. My privilege has been passed on. I hope to pass it to many more!
For those of you who are readers, Dr. Cleveland has written a book titled, “Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart.” Christians should exemplify unity and this book addresses the church. I’m providing you a link and I do not benefit at all from you purchasing through this link. https://www.amazon.com/Disunity-Christ-Uncovering-Hidden-Forces/dp/0830844031/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=christena+cleveland&qid=1591038442&sr=8-1