Our Commitment to Examining Our White Privilege
Do you have eyes, and fail to see?
One of the pernicious and enduring characteristics of privilege is that even whites who long ago became aware of the endemic racism in America, and who challenged themselves to grow beyond their racist pasts, are yet still recipients of privileges that give them enormous economic advantages. Even more insidious is that some of the most committed white allies for racial equity remain largely unaware of the countless ways that privilege manifests itself daily in their lives. If you are a person of color in America, the seeing of privilege is inescapable. If you are white, you have most likely not been conditioned to even look for, much less see, where your privilege functions.
Many people—many white people—have long believed our goal in pursuing racial justice should be a colorblind society. But if we claim to be blind to color, to the way our world is experienced differently by people of different races, we also will remain blind to the racial prejudice and privilege that continues to pervade our society—to the ways, in fact, that racism is woven into the way we live together, apart.
And make no mistake, though we ourselves may have rejected overt racist acts, white supremacy and white privilege are still part of the warp and weft of America—and not just among the newly ascendant Alt-Right movement. The evidence isn’t just anecdotal, it’s quantifiable. The effect isn’t just emotional, it’s economic, both in terms of the disadvantages dealt to African-American communities and the advantages white folks receive.
We may not see it, because we have been socialized not to. Like fish, we remain largely ignorant of the water in which we swim. That is the way privilege works. But we also have chosen to remain blind. We have chosen not to believe the witness of our African-American neighbors, even as the evidence piles up around us, lifting us up and putting them down and diminishing us all in the process.
This year, United Christian Church of Austin embarks on a sustained course of introspection, a journey to the heart of our whiteness and the privilege at the root of persistent racism in our communities. Our road map will be a new curriculum, published by our United Church of Christ denominational family, called White Privilege: Let’s Talk—A Resource for Transformational Dialogue.
The curriculum has been written by five different authors, each bringing their own life experience, point of view, and understanding to four different areas of discussion: I. The Spiritual Autobiography Told Through the Lens of Race; II. Whiteness as the Norm; III. The Cash Value of Whiteness; and IV. On Becoming an Ally. You may download the entire curriculum at privilege.uccpages.org. We hope as many of our church members and friends as possible will join us on this journey.
There also will be opportunities for direct action and for engaging our youth members and older elementary children along the way. This is a journey for the whole church to make—the whole, broken church to make together. Please take time to prayerful consider how the Spirit may be calling you to participate in this journey. Reflect on these words from Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, president and general minister of our United Church of Christ denominational family, and one of the authors of this curriculum:
The work by whites to understand white privilege is more than the work of justice: it is the work of spiritual healing. The truth is, the mental and spiritual health of even the oppressors is badly affected by the work of supporting or maintaining systems of injustice that privilege them financially, economically, and otherwise. One of America’s lingering realities is the unprocessed grief, shame, fear, anger, and guilt of living in a culture of racial inequity. It is a heavy price we pay to maintain our silence in the face of such evil, no matter what benefits we accrue because of it. Every brown and black body we see can trigger that guilt, shame, and fear.
Meet the authors of "White Privilege: Let's Talk--A Resource for Transformational Dialogue"
The Rev. John C. Dorhauer is the ninth General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. He has also served as the Conference Minister of the UCC's Southwest Conference, as Associate Conference Minister in the Missouri Mid-South Conference, and as a local church pastor in churches in rural Missouri. He earned his M.Div. from Eden Theological Seminary and D.Min. from United Theological Seminary, where he studied white privilege and its effects on the church. He is passionate about justice. Two statements that shape his theology are: "God is love. God is just."
The Rev. John Paddock is Rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Dayton, OH. He earned his M.Div. from The Episcopal Theological Seminary in Virginia, and D.Min. from United Theological Seminary in Dayton. Paddock has two consuming passions. The first is to seek ways to reframe Christianity in ways that speak to contemporary people. This entails being open to new knowledge and discoveries in every area of human endeavor. And it requires openness to God’s Spirit as she leads us into God’s future. His second passion is to reach out to the poor, the disenfranchised, the weak, and the victims of the powers that be: racism, empire, sexism, homophobia, and all other forms of discrimination and injustice.
Da Vita D. McCallister
The Rev. Da Vita D. McCallister is Associate Conference Minister for Leadership and Vitality in the UCC’s Connecticut Conference. She is a mother, ordained minister, entrepreneur, philanthropist, writer and advocate for youth and young adults. She has shared her love, passion, and wisdom in youth and young adult ministries for over 25 years, in a number of settings including the Fund for Theological Education, the National Setting of the United Church of Christ, and The United Methodist Church. MCCallister teaches and speaks nationally about the church’s role in racial justice work, faith based civil disobedience, and faithful responses in the face of injustice.
Stephen G. Ray, Jr.
The Rev. Dr. Stephen G. Ray is the Neal F. and Ila A. Fisher Professor of Systematic Theology at Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL. Previously, he was associate professor of African-American studies and director of the Urban Theological Institute at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia; associate professor of theology and philosophy at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary; and lecturer at Yale Divinity School and Hartford Seminary. He is an ordained UCC minister and has served as pastor of churches in Hartford and New Haven, CT, and in Louisville, KY. Ray earned his PhD from Yale University and M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. He is the author of two books: A Struggle from the Start: The Black Community of Hartford, 1639-1960 and Do No Harm: Social Sin and Christian Responsibility. He is co-author of a third book: Black Church Studies: An Introduction.
The Rev. Traci D. Blackmon is Acting Executive Minister of the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries. She is also the first female pastor of the 156-year-old Christ The King United Church of Christ in Ferguson, MO. She became nationally recognized as a prominent voice for social change when Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, just miles from her church. She immediately worked to help organize the Black Lives Matter movement, effectively assisting and collaborating with people in the community working for justice.