I am white. And I am privileged. Though I was born to poor lower middle class parents who did not have the opportunity to finish high school (my daddy had a 7th grade education) that left me at a societal disadvantage, I still possessed one powerful advantage that many other children born in 1959 did not have — and that was the color of my skin. Life is not fair; the wealthy (of any color) are favored in society and in courts of law. Money gives you power. I have seen this and so have you. If you have money, you know it to be a fact whether you’ll admit it or not. Living from paycheck to paycheck is a great disadvantage in our society and not having the means to earn a paycheck earns you ridicule and disgust.
Being a woman puts you at a disadvantage. I have and continue to experience this in this job. Some prefer to talk with Zach, not just because he is the editor (and a whole lot smarter than me), but because he is a man.
Being fat is also a disadvantage. I know a little something about that too.
So poor me. Please, cry a river for me.
On the flip side, I have never had someone look at me with distrust or disgust because of the color of my skin. I have plenty of people who dislike me, but I don’t think a single one does so because I am white.
Now there are plenty of people who would argue all of this with me. They would say that society has flipped white privilege and that if you’re black, a “Mexican,” a “foreigner,” a refugee or (gasp) a Muslim, you get special privileges.
And I can safely say that all who would point this out to me look like me and have also been privileged by the color of their skin all their lives, whether they would admit it or not.
Still don’t see my point?
Try this; look in the mirror. Have you ever wished your skin was a different color? Despite how critical you are of your body, have you actually ever thought to yourself, “I wish I was not a white person?”
My guess is you haven’t and neither have I.
Since we’ve always had this inherent privilege in our society, some of us now feel threatened because we are no longer dominant in all situations. It is not a given anymore that we will move to the front of the line because we are white.
Well, let me cry us all a river.
Losing that “privilege,” as horribly wrong as it was (is) is a scary thing. I’ve felt it and I’ve had to take a long hard look at myself.
You know, as bad as these times are, as much as hate groups find their voices and the power to back them, these difficult trying days also force us to look once again in the mirror, this time not at our skin color but at our hearts. And whether we speak up or remain silent, and therefore complicit, we are being forced to take a stand if only within our own minds.
In other words, we have to confront who we really are, and that is often the scariest thing of all.
We all need to work hard to gain an understanding that we are all struggling with prejudice and judgment in some form or fashion and that, in turn, we are all prejudiced and judgmental ourselves. Ultimately, we are all just “us,” not “us and them.”
This is a part of critical thinking, something that seems so starkly absent in today’s society.
Doing this can lead us all to be better people. I think that’s something we are meant to work at all our lives – struggle to be better, work to understand others better and bear the burden of actually examining ourselves for our own faults and weaknesses of character. We are never finished learning how to live until we take our last breath, or we shouldn’t be anyway.
And to my fellow followers of Christ, please remember that Jesus was not a white man. His true countenance likely had little to nothing in common with that most famous rendering of him with his distinctly white, distinctly Gentile, features. He was a brown man and he grew up in the Jewish faith. He was a poor man who was homeless and had no possessions or money of his own. He did not attend a church with padded pews and insulated, unbending views.
And yet armed with nothing but his wisdom he stood up and stepped out to bring a message of love and compassion to the world, and just as importantly, to call out those who were evil, wherever he found them. He was not silent and he was hated for it.
He spoke out about what he knew to be wrong, knowing it would cost him. None of us can ever live up to that, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, that we shouldn’t take on the struggle, even if we too are hated for it.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for The Madison County Journal.
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