White privilege. Over the past few months I have heard, seen and watched many dialogs on this topic. I am white, and due to the color of my skin I have been granted opportunities that others have not. Growing up I did not see this; I grew up in a very mono-cultural community in a lower socio-economic bracket. I was never looked down on, but I felt the sting of things being out of reach, but it had nothing to do with the color of my skin.
When I think of white privilege, I remember my college roommate and I walking over to Cabrini Green (a Chicago housing project that no longer exists) to a ministry she worked at. On the walk to or from, a police officer would ask us if we needed a ride back to campus. This always made us so mad! What about the teen girl who gets harassed while she walks on this same street or the little boy who is being forced into gang life because he lacks a father figure? It was the color of our skin that made us the targets of the officers’ good will. We were white and most of the residents were black.
When I think of white privilege, I remember my friend Melissa, she was leaving the apartment of a child she worked with and a black man was being accosted by the police. She knew him and spoke into the situation. The next day she found out the police backed off, saying, “If she cares about you, then we will leave you alone.” She was white, he was black.
When I think of white privilege, I remember my neighbor in Chester going to apply for a job at Burger King, but the manager with a shaved head would not give her an application. “We are not hiring,” he had told her. But a week later he gave one of my white teens an application. He was white, my neighbor was black.
Whether I like it or not, white privilege exists, and I am a part of it. I benefit because of the color of my skin, I benefit because my parents happen to be white, I benefit and sometimes I don’t even realize it. So, what can I do to change this? What can I do to ensure equality for all people? One thing I know I can do is keep the conversation open and look for opportunities to stand up for what is right. I can continue to be a reconciler, a woman who longs for justice and a child of God who seeks justice. If each of us does this, the Church may be able to set the tone for a new type of privilege, the privilege of reconciliation.