|Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer|
President and General Minister, UCC
I invite the white men of America with me on this journey of discovery. Ask those who don't share your privilege to tell you what they see.I suspect that, when straight white American males (spoiler alert: like me) are confronted with the reality of our white privilege, our first instinct is guilt. Some may even get defensive; they may feel chastised for being white (which is a wonderfully rare occurrence for a white person).
But, I believe this reaction misses the point. There's no need to feel guilty or defensive. Rather, we are charged with action, namely: recognizing the advantages that white privilege affords us.
When I think about recognizing my own privilege and what it means, I try to think of it in analogies. It's not perfect, but it's a start. Perhaps the most helpful analogy (for me, anyway) is to think about it in terms of class.
Let's say you were born to a wealthy (or even middle-class family). You didn't ask for it, you didn't earn it, it's just how it is. You didn't do anything wrong, but you immediately have resources at your disposal that most people in this world don't have.
Furthermore, you might not even realize that you have a leg up on anyone else, at least at first. And why would you? To you, having enough money to go on vacation, attend college, study abroad, etc. is the norm. Most of your friends are in the same boat, and you haven't come into contact with many who aren't.
Maybe it's even hard for you to understand why other families struggle with money. Your parents worked hard to earn their money, and you plan on doing the same. Why do other families choose to suffer?
This last line of thinking is flawed, of course; the issues of class and race are too complex and nuanced. However, I don't believe acknowledging your own white privilege should involve guilt or penance. What it does demand, I think, is that we admit something to ourselves. We need to admit that, because we are white, our lives are easier than they would be if we weren't.
We are treated better. It's not hard to see this. "I'm less likely to go to jail. I'm less likely to be pulled over. I'm more likely to get hired. People will give me the benefit of the doubt. People will smile and greet me. People will know how to act around me."
So how do we move forward? Dorhauer states:
Don't worry about carrying the burden of solving this pervasive injustice: for good reason, you and I won't be entrusted with that work. But only when we see what others are more than happy to show us about ourselves will we be open then to hearing what they have to teach us about what will be required for true equality to emerge.Here, I believe Dorhauer is positing that, as we acknowledge our privilege and listen to those who do not share the same privilege, we will begin to dismantle the thought-processes and institutions that give us this unearned privilege in the first place.