Author: The Rev. Deacon Ed Richards, Grace and St. Thomas Churches, Panama City Beach
Like many of you, I have been heartbroken about the events of the past week or so. Like many in my position, older, white, male, I struggle from time to time with the concept of white privilege. Although I think I may finally have a good understanding of the concept.
Part of my struggle with white privilege is that I have not really thought of myself as privileged. My family was probably lower middle class. We rented houses more often than not. While I was better off than some of my friends, I definitely had less than others. I had my first part time job in the 5th grade, a paper route, and pretty much worked continuously until I was 68. I had good jobs and not so good ones, but always had enough to satisfy my needs and a few of my wants.
It was at a Wednesday night program at church when I first mentioned my privilege. The group was all women except for me and one other man. I cannot remember the topic, but I made the comment that I had never felt the discrimination that the women in the room had. I said as a white male I have never had to worry about equal pay for equal work. I have never worried that I would be held back from promotion because of my gender. I was never asked in a job interview if I planned to have children. At first everyone was somewhat shocked, but then they acknowledged that it was true. They had all experienced discrimination based upon their gender, which I had not. But I still did not equate that with “white privilege.”
But as the term has been used more and more frequently, I have studied it. Read books, articles, listened to lectures, tried to talk with people who are different from me.
My conclusion is I, without being aware of it, enjoy “White Privilege” and so do most of you. I have never had people make judgments about me based on the color of my skin. That doesn’t mean they don’t make bad assumptions about me, just not because of the color of my skin. And I confess sadly, that in the past, I have been guilty of doing the same to others who have different skin tones than I do. I have enjoyed my privilege and been part of the problem.
I admit that I have never wondered that I might be taken for a burglar while I was touring a house under construction in my neighborhood or another (this was/is one of my favorite things to do). I confess that I have never been scared to run (now walk) alone in my neighborhood at night. I admit, that I never worried that my boys would be stopped by the police for a minor infraction, have their car searched, themselves pushed around and then taken to jail on trumped up charges. I confess that I have not worried that I might be jailed just for being in the wrong spot at the wrong time. I admit that even if that happened, I had good friends who were attorneys, who would quickly come to my defense, bail me out and see to it that I was well represented in a court of law. I confess that I have never worried that when I locked myself out of my house or car that a neighbor would call the police when I attempted to get myself in by prying open a window or sliding a bent coat hanger through the side of a window. I admit that I never had to sit my children down and discuss with them what to do if they were stopped by the police. I confess that there are other aspects of white privilege that I have not thought about or named above.
For too long have I, and many like me, been complicit in the racism that exists in this country by my silence. I pray for the courage and strength to no longer be that way. This will never be a good place for me unless it is a great place for everyone, no matter the color of their skin, their gender, their sexual orientation, national origin, or religious preference. I long for this to end, the pandemic, the riots, the protests. But I do not want to go back to the old normal, especially when it involves people who are different from me. I long for a place where all are treated equally without bias. Racism has existed in this country for over 400 years. It is time for it to stop. Please join me in honest discussion as to how to change this country while it is still possible to do so. Remember, with God all things are possible, and given the teachings of Jesus, I am certain He is on our side in this issue. And know, God loves you no matter…..