Privilege is what I have.
I am not wealthy, but I have an income from my part time job, my SS and Bern's, and the Church Pension Fund that has been in 6 figures the last 6 years--it never was before that, by the way. So, I have all the money I need. And with the Pension Fund's health insurance beyond Medicare, we hardly ever have a medical or dental bill more than $16.
I am also white, male, heterosexual and Protestant.
Newt Gingrich, of all people said it today: "Most average white people have no idea what it's like to be Black."
Back in the Viet Nam years, with my hair much longer than now, I got some 'looks' from police officers--but they never looked at me the way some police look at young Black men...like a threat, like a danger, like someone to fear.
There was a photo on line today from somewhere--Memphis? maybe--at a Black Lives Matter demonstration. A 28 year old black woman in a long dress is standing absolutely still as two police officers in riot gear rush toward her.
It reminded me of the photo of the single demonstrator staring down a tank in Tinneman Square in China and the photo of of a Viet Nam demonstrator, a young woman, putting a daisy in the barrel of a National Guard soldier's rifle and of so many of the photos from the civil rights movement when peaceful people stood still in the face of armed police and police dogs.
I served an historically black church in Charleston, West Virginia and two deeply integrated churches in Connecticut cities. And Newt was right (about this if little else!) I don't have any idea what it's like to be black.
And I have never needed to know.
That is 'privilege' that the growing number of people of color in my nation don't have.
I sometimes notice, when my granddaughters and son and daughter in law are walking in Baltimore with Bern and me, that white people do a double take at Cathy because she's Asian and the rest of us look white (though the grand-daughters are mixed-race). But it's not a double take with much more than curiosity. If she were Black or Hispanic or Muslim with a head scarf, I'm not sure what the double take would be about.)
No white person has ever done a double take at me. Except maybe for my hair. But it is usually amusement that I haven't advanced from the 60's.
I live in a town so safe that we never lock the doors or our cars. Many people of color and poor white people couldn't imagine that--just like I can't imagine being them.
The thing is, now that I ponder it, people without 'privilege' probably can't imagine being 'privileged' any more than I can imagine being them.
So here we are in the only country I'd want to live in (except maybe New Zealand) and we can't imagine what it's like to be on the other side of the divide between privilege and "not".
My privilege gives me guilt. And I have mixed with 'the other' most of my life.
Somehow, someway, we have to bridge this gap, this divide.
I promise to try to work on that--though I have no idea how to do it. And I hope you will ponder doing the same.
We can't live in such a divided society. We must do something to enable the diversity of our nation make us strong and united rather than divide us. We must do something about the distribution of wealth that drives much of the divide. We must find ways to come to identify with 'the other' so that we can be 'one'.
I long to know--really 'know'--my brothers and sisters who are not like me.
I pray for the wisdom to somehow, someway do that.
My 'privilege' is a weight on my back. I long for it to be my ballast in the rough seas of life.
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