As a white woman in America, I am privileged. I am granted advantages simply because the color of my skin is the same as that of the majority in power. Some of these advantages I have recognized and many I have not, which is an effect of that privilege.
So as people begin to share their opinions about systemic racism in America, I wonder where my place is in the conversation. What have I experienced that could lend insight? Is my opinion even valid? And is believing I do have a place another example of entitlement?
As I’ve been grappling with these questions, a large part of me is tempted to hide in the shadows and keep quiet, mainly for fear that my views could spark arguments, whether with strangers or loved ones. But Scripture commands us to “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; [and] plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17 NIV).
So in obedience to God’s word, I’ve decided to join this conversation, without offense or insult, to add one humble perspective from a young, white, Christian, American woman.
It is my observation that being catered to and represented in all walks of life has prevented a vast majority of people in my community from either recognizing the disparities that exist for non-white people or simply not working to change them because we do not experience these issues on a regular basis. This is not to say the vast majority of white people don’t care about the racial inequalities in this country and even feel shame over it, including white police officers I know and love. But going beyond a shake of the head, a social media post, and saying a prayer, I don’t see enough action being taken to actually change the system of racism that exists. And I’ll admit, I am guilty of this inaction myself.
As a white teacher of predominately white students, I do my best to incorporate the works and voices of multicultural authors and perspectives, facilitate conversations about race and inequality, and challenge my students to form opinions based on facts and research instead of bias and hearsay. I exercise my right to vote in a responsible way by researching candidates’ policies and voting for those I feel best represent equality and equity. But that’s just my small space, and it’s minimal in the grand scheme of 250+ years of American racial injustice. Because it is not only policing and our justice system that needs to be changed. It is our community development, education, employment, health care, news media, and other institutions I’m probably not even aware of.
But let’s be honest. Nothing will change unless my community changes our perspectives on race and privilege and truly empathizes with oppressed minorities. And if we don’t, we will continue to find our country in the same situation time and again. As human rights activist and author Samantha Power claims, “America’s nonresponse to the horrors [of race murder] establishes patterns that [will] be repeated” (A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, 2002).
So how do we respond? How do we “learn to do right” and “defend the oppressed” to break this pattern? A white friend recently shared an article that offers “75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice”. These practical, easily accessible suggestions are a great start. But after we read and learn, we must act, we must defend.
Because if we continue to stay silent while our brothers and sisters suffer, what will we have to say for ourselves on Judgment Day? Let us remember what Jesus tells us in Matthew 25: 31-46 (NLT).