I became aware of white privilege while I was in college, which considering it was a small conservative Christian school full of white people was a bit of a miracle. Since then I’ve continued to learn about the vast enormity of injustice that our country was not just created on but has carried on, and on, and on. I started reading, and listening, and reforming what I thought and what I “knew” and then reading and listening more only to realize that the new thing I thought was only half a step better than my old way of thinking, and repeating the reading, listening, and thinking cycle all over again.
Do you ever wonder what you would have done if you’d been THERE …Selma, Birmingham, boycotts, segregation, sit-ins, marches…what would you have done? I do. I think we can judge that “what would I do?” by what our response is today when we dismiss peaceful protests, when we blame victims, when we pretend like we don’t see what’s happening, when Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, and Charlottesville are mere blips on our radar, when our President bullies and belittles as part of his “leadership” and we stay silent. That’s our answer to what we would have done, the same thing too many of us are guilty of currently doing: hiding.
I’ve been reading and listening and thinking now for awhile. I’m getting better at being involved, at having awkward conversations. I have kids. I’m raising four of the most privileged people in the world (aka four white boys, and there’s a daughter too, but that’s another matter entirely) and I can’t lie-there have been so many times that I’ve retreated into that white privilege because what’s happening overwhelms my capacity to address it. I do so less often than before, and certain events have spurred me into more action, more awareness, more conversations where I do albeit inelegantly and haltingly challenge a comment or presumption someone in my circle has said, but please know this is hardly a self-congratulatory sort of post. I’m looking for more.
Now those boys are reaching the ages where I have to
dwell obsessively duly ponder what kind of character I’m raising them to have as men, and that means that more than ever my acts of social justice have to go beyond liking my liberal friends’ facebook posts, donating some money here and there, or these other odds and ends that they don’t know I do.
We do have hard conversations, we read truth about slavery, racism, the treatment of Native Americans, and gender inequality. We don’t cover up terrible things that have been done in the name of our religion. There was the entire election cycle that was a never ending stream of conversation and because of the way that turned out current events and our president give us plenty of fodder to talk about racism, sexism, discrimination, and unacceptable codes of conduct.
And now it’s Martin Luther King Jr Day and I have all those things swirling around in my head and five children swirling around in my life, and I feel myself want to take the easy road of “later”, but I feel the pull to be more involved in what’s happening in society, to do more, and to do more with them, but what? I’m not (ever) going to diminish the power or benefit of reading and I’ll continue to read for myself and to pick books for them to read that address these issues as well, but there needs to be more. That’s what I’m thinking about today: What am I going to do? How am I going to demonstrably show my children what I believe about equality? What can we do that is actionable? Some kind of service project seems to be the answer, but I’m always afraid that those come off as self-congratulatory or smack of, “aren’t you lucky I’m here to help you?”.
I don’t have a tidy closing for this post. I suppose a better person would have written this a week ago and today would have some answers for what we could do together, but at least I’m looking for answers, and taking the day seriously, instead of, say, golfing.