Updated: Aug 12, 2019
I just want to name something going on in society and inside of me as a result. There is a lot of negativity towards white males today. I think there are good reasons for this. White males have been the dominant culture and in power for over 200 hundred years here now. That is shifting, and truths about abuses of power against women and minority groups have been coming out for decades. The anger and the pain from those affected are real and not imagined. White males are in a position of privilege because of past abuses of power. I would add that I think this issue is more a result of who is in control rather than the race and gender of those in power. If we look around the globe, we will see the same injustices from whatever ethnicity is the representative power. Power in the United States has mainly been represented by white males.
What is being said by some in minority cultures or from women is coming from pain and injustice. When people are in pain or sharing the pain, it doesn't always come out in the right way. Words flowing from raw emotion can be hurtful. Yet, some of these verbal attacks are making it about race and gender. They are clearly prejudiced and discriminatory, even though I can understand the reasons behind them.
I am a white male, and I can begin to take these attacks personally. I can become defensive about it instead of listening to others. To some people, I represent the enemy. Add to the biological fact of my race and gender that I have chosen to be a Christian, and to some, I am enemy number one. Christianity has been the dominant religion in America alongside white culture and unfortunately, gets hitched to incidents of abuse of power. Power and religion are entangled in the minds of some people.
How should I choose to respond as a white male in America to these racist and hostile comments? How am I to respond as a follower of Jesus? I can choose to react with immature feelings or with mature love. Jesus taught his followers...
"But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well. When they wish to haul you to court and take your shirt, let them have your coat too. When they force you to go one mile, go with them two." – Matthew 5:39-41
Followers of Jesus are to meet the request but double the effort to meet the demand. Followers are called to offer the opportunity for another slap, double the payment, and go the extra mile.
I was listening to Dr. John Perkins a couple weeks ago while he was here speaking at SPU events. One of the things that Dr. Perkins said was this, "Give privilege away." This resonated with me because I didn't hear in this statement an issue of race. I heard this as the Gospel message and in line with the teachings of Jesus. I think this idea of giving privilege away is another possible summary of Jesus teaching in this sermon on the mount.
Jesus is saying to give our privilege away.
One practical way to do this is to get rid of clauses in real estate deeds that protect the privilege of being white. Many people live in homes that would never have been sold to a person of color because of a legal statement on the deed disqualifying them from purchase. The state of Washington has made it simple and easy to strike any racial clauses from the deed. Check on the legal wording of your deed and get it changed for the next homeowner.
Here in Seattle, we are living on land once inhabited by Native Americans. In 1971 the Duwamish were finally acknowledged as being the tribe here in Seattle. 1000 Duwamish tribespeople were paid $64 for 54,000 acres of land. That's $64,000 total for the ground the whole city sits on! If you are buying stuff on Amazon today, remember to thank the Duwamish for their generosity and support! One way to pay for the use of this land is to pay rent. You can go to the website realrentduwamish.org and make a donation or set up a recurring payment.
What are ways we can give back or give our privilege away? I am still in the process of learning to love the way that Jesus taught. I think the mature response is love.