white privilege is real

My friend Dela posted something on Facebook earlier today that caught me off guard. She said it bothered her that out of all the outrage she’d seen from her friends on Facebook about Tray Martin, only three of them were white.

My friend is black. And I wasn’t one of the three white friends she was talking about. And that bothered me.

If you haven’t heard, Trayvon Martin was an innocent, unarmed black teenager (17) who was shot and killed by a 28-year-old Latino man because he looked “suspicious.” Trayvon was wearing a hoodie and carrying a bag of Skittles and an Arizona iced tea and doing nothing wrong. His killer claimed he shot him in “self-defense” and no charges were pressed.

I read this post from my friend Tara in Haiti, and it broke my heart. I love her precious family, and Isaac’s words made me want to cry.

Tara linked to this article by a white guy named Tim Wise, who has researched and written extensively on the topic of racism. Wise says (and I agree) that, “If Trayvon Martin had been, say, Todd Martin, a 17-year old white male, in the same neighborhood on the same evening, it wouldnโ€™t have mattered that he was wearing a hoodie, looking at homes as he passed them by, or fiddling with his waistband.” That was the “suspicious” activity his killer reported on a 911 call.

Wise challenges the notion long-held by most white people (including me, ashamedly) that black people are “exaggerating the problem or making the proverbial mountain out of a molehill.” (Here’s another great article along those lines.)

“Empathy,” Wise says, “โ€” real empathy, not the situational and utterly phony kind that most any of us can muster when social convention calls for it โ€” requires that one be able to place oneself in the shoes of another, and to consider the world as they must consider it. It requires that we be able to suspend our own culturally-ingrained disbelief long enough to explore the possibility that perhaps the world doesnโ€™t work as we would have it, but rather as others have long insisted it did.”

I posted a link to Wise’s article on Facebook and added this: “Injustice is real. And alive and kicking around the world and right here in our own country. And it’s not okay with our God. And he demands time and time again in his word that it not be okay with us either. I don’t always know what to do with/about it, but that’s no excuse. God, give me your heart for justice.”

Call me naive, but I did not expect the ensuing comment thread to turn into angry talk about “racism going both ways.” That black people can be just as racist as white people and “I’m tired of white people being called racist,” etc.

I tried (and failed) to explain that yes, every color of person can be racist. But in this country, white people aren’t going to get profiled/accused of stuff/killed just because they’re white.

And a black person very well might. And has. And is.

After an icky discussion, all of my “opponents” (one goes to my church and one is a blood relative) said they “bowed out” and were basically sorely disappointed in my inability to “let this go” and my insistence at calling them “white racists.”

And I felt powerless. Because I knew that we were all missing the real point I was trying to make. Mostly because I had no idea how to say what I really meant.

But I couldn’t just stay silent, because I love my black friends (most of whom I know in real life and go to church with), and their outrage and their pain was not okay with me. I wanted to understand it and feel it, and I wanted to stand with them and fight for them and their kiddos whom I love so much. I begged God to show me how I could do that as a white girl. I didn’t see how it was possible, but I felt like I had to try.

But I didn’t want to say anything that made it sound like I knew what it was like to be black. I don’t. And I didn’t want to sound like I was trying to be a hero. I’m not. And I didn’t want to post out of white guilt or whatever. Yuck.

And then I had a little chat with a friend online. And then a couple friends texted me and told me to please keep fighting for what was right. And I asked God again for wisdom. And then my friend Rebecca told me about an article that had helped her think about race issues in a way she never had before.

And it all started to click. No, I don’t have it figured out. And no, I don’t have any brilliant conclusions for this blog post. But now I can put my finger on what’s been eating at me.

The article is called White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack. Holy cow.

“As a white person,” author Peggy McIntosh writes, “I realized I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage.”

“I began to count the ways in which I enjoy unearned skin privilege and have been conditioned into oblivion about its existence.”

That’s it right there. That’s what I’d been thinking but had no idea how to articulate. Racism isn’t just about white people doing/saying bad things to black people (or vice versa). It’s deeper than that. It’s this underlying… thing… that says, “If you’re white, you automatically get these certain privileges. If you’re black, you don’t.”

But no white person wants to admit that white people get these privileges. We want to say (and think) that everything is fair for everyone, that we live in a free country steeped in Christian values, that everyone who works hard enough is entitled to everything that anyone gets.

But it’s not true.

Here are 6 of the 26 privileges the author admits that she has (that her black colleagues don’t):

I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
I can be pretty sure that my neighbors will be neutral or pleasant to me.
I can swear, or dress in second-hand clothes or not answer letters without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.
I can be sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge” I will be facing a person of my race.
If a traffic cop pulls me over, or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having coworkers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.

“Obliviousness about white advantage… is kept strongly inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all.”

Why do my black friends see my white privilege when I’m completely blinded to it? Because the advantages I have are advantages I have never not had.

Spending time in Cambodia exposed my blindness to my own wealth and privilege as an American. Because it opened my eyes to what I have that others don’t.

I want the same thing to happen with my friends of color in my own community. I want my eyes opened to the privileges I enjoy merely because I was born with cream-colored skin. And I want to fight for justice for my friends whose skin is a different shade.

This post is a start.

And I’ll leave you with a poem written by a friend of a friend. Yalonda Bond Wilson is a beautiful black woman with a gorgeous little boy.

Friends, whether you’re a mama or not, put yourself in this mama’s shoes for just a minute and see if it doesn’t break your heart.

My TrayVon Martin is four years old and I weep when he sleeps

He sleeps so peacefully because he is unaware that the world doesn’t recognize
his worth.
I weep because i know that no matter the joy he brings to me, he will be seen as
a threat
I weep because he is magnificent and splendid and one of my life’s greatest
treasures
And it breaks my heart to know that someone, anyone could blot out his existence

He sleeps so peacefully because he hasn’t yet realized his power
I weep because there will always be lingering questions of motives related to
his hue
I weep because I know that the best way to preserve his earthly life would be
To raise him to be a non-threatening figure, to placate, and to shuffle
But what self-respecting mother raises a son to be weak?
My son will stand strong and stand tall and be broad shouldered and to know that

He doesn’t have to respond to any ordinary Joe who asks a question
He will know his rights and he will respect the rights of others … All others
He will be prepared to mentally spar with the greats

But raising my son to be strong is a risk; raising him not to be is even riskier
I weep because his mountain is unfairly steeper than anyone else in this land of
the free
I weep because his trail will have hidden obstacles and barriers that will build
strength
Strength that will help him develop into a man, yet strength that may make him
ominous

Tonight he sleeps in the crook of his father’s arm, at peace and protected
But me, I am awake praying for a mother and father in Sanford; praying for
justice
Yet grieving because no amount of justice restores the loss of the joy that is a
child
Heavy hearted because I don’t believe our sons will ever know a level playing
field
Frightened because our grandsons may not either

My TrayVon Martin is just four years old, and I weep when he sleeps.

102 thoughts on “white privilege is real

  1. Rikki

    I loved this!! You hi the nail on the head! I have also tried to explain this stance several times to my white friends (I am also white) and so few ‘get it’. One of the best books on the subject is Dominion, by Randy Alcorn. It completely changed the way I think and convicted me so deeply on so many issues that I was not the same after reading it. It is very detailed and goes into the history of why things are the way they are, and many of the generational curses that are still alive today because of the evils of slavery. It is actually a great fiction book but the author has done such extensive research to show how deep racism goes, where it stemmed from, and how God truly feels about it. It has been a few years since I read it, I think I will again!
    Can’t say enough how much I enjoyed this. Great job for writing it.

  2. Kaira

    I really don’t believe Trayvon was shot because he was black. I believe Zimmerman should have backed off and should face consequences for taking justice into his own hands.

    That said, I really don’t buy into everything always being a race issue and I’ve felt like portions of the black community hold too tightly to the race card. I still do feel like that. However, this post really has me thinking. I’m going to read more because those 6 things you listed make really interesting points.

    I want my heart to be in the right place here. I do want to understand this issue more. Thanks for sharing what you did, in the way you did. It is so completely non-offensive (the opposite of most posts I read of this nature) that I want to learn more.

  3. Tony Genovese

    I can’t say if race is a factor in this situation because I want involved. However, race issues are something that is in the sub conscious of America. We have come a long way, but we haven’t reached the goal. Some of the most difficult things to say are sometimes the most important things we need to talk about. One problem I see is this… One side says, “Hey, you offended me.” The other side says, “No I didn’t, get over it.” Seek first to understand. Second, to be understood. I wrote an essay last week and wish to share it with you and your readers. I call it “THE TALK… How to conduct myself as a black man in America.” I’ve shared it with my tumblr followers and it will be part of a class discussion at Ohio University. Here’s the link.

    http://t.co/KDPG3mbD

  4. Rosanne

    This is an interesting blog post. First, I am so heartbroken for Trayvan’s family – I can’t imagine how hard this must be for them, mostly because it seems so pointless and so unnecessary. The refrain of “what ifs” that must be going through their minds make me very sad.

    The man who shot TrayVon obviously used incredibly poor judgment. I don’t know all the details of the case, but it does make you wonder if he was looking for some kind of excuse to do what he did.

    However, if we are to truly love as Christ loved though – are you praying for him and his family, too? Are his family members any less worthy of our sympathy and prayers? Just asking.

    I don’t know how to say what is on my heart without coming across wrong. Race issues are so fraught with landmines that I think it is really difficult to have an honest conversation and for both participants to really listen. Both sides tend to be defensive, and sometimes even seem to look for offense where none exists.

    I will say this though, hatred in any form, is destructive and hurtful, to the person being hated AND to the person doing the hating. I believe forming personal relationships with people different from ourselves is the first step in bridging those gaps. When you know people personally – interact with them, do life with them side by side – they cease to be a “race” or “ethnicity” or “class,” but become a real person. When we learn to really “see” people – that is when we learn to truly love as Christ does.

  5. Judy

    I want to address one thing that I don’t think has been properly addressed up to this point. I’ve read a lot of people saying ‘we don’t really know what happened.’ And then people react saying we do know what happened, that Trayvon was killed because he was black. Usually, real life situations are more complicated than that.

    I think that people who say ‘We don’t really know what happened’ need to ask, ‘Why did Zimmerman feel the need to follow Trayvon, and then actually get out of his vehicle to confront him?’ Can they see why people would be troubled that this kid was trailed by an adult seemingly for his appearance?

    I also think people are portraying what happened after Zimmerman left his vehicle unfairly. Did he just get out and shoot Trayvon because he was black? The facts don’t bear that out. I think it’s likely that Trayvon was followed and questioned because he was black, which is an injustice in itself, and I’m not trying to diminish that fact. However, after that, the two men got into a fight, and right now we don’t know who initiated the physical confrontation or who had the upper hand, or if at that point Zimmerman truly had reason to fear for his life. The facts as I understand them show that Zimmerman suffered a broken nose, some type of cut on his head, and had grass on his back after the incident, which may mean that Trayvon was on top of him.

    Even if that is the case, I can certainly see why Trayvon would have felt threatened as well. I’d be freaked out if some dude was following me in my car. I don’t think he should have been necessarily expected to play nice with a stranger that was following him either.

    With knowing what I know about this case, we need to definitely address the injustice of a young black man being followed and considered ‘suspicious’ because of his appearance, recognizing that this situation never needed to be initiated. Zimmerman was also the adult here, in the safety of his vehicle and should share significant responsibility in initiating the incident. At the same time we can’t ignore the possibility that Trayvon may have initiated the physical portion of the confrontation, and after that the situation spun out of control.

    1. Judy

      I meant if some dude was following me in THEIR car. I suppose if some dude was following me in MY car, it would make the situation even worse…

  6. Frank Cornstalk Jr

    As a Native American, we espouse community, UNITY at all costs , even confronting our own racism n bigotry. we need to stop the blame game because it resolves nothing. the idea of community is empathy n cooperation, so all might succeed. Behind the wall of racism is fear, power n control. As I have espoused in my circles as a full blooded Indian from a line descendant from Chief Cornstalk(ran with Tecumseh) I have been called apple, a white indian n a wanna be. from other natives????Psychologically I understand the root of such language but understanding the motives or the feelings which mitigate such language n acts doesn’t take away from the hurt n marginalization it causes. We need to be honest with our feelings , decide if there is anything we can do about it. Compassion n mercy are attributes from God , not elected for one particular race! ,if you will. Spiritual protocol is what we of the nations are talking about as the taking from us with out asking, n then the continued legislation which would try to deem us as not human or somehow inferior is the pain of the ages. We are human being s too. We of the redroad know the Great Spirit made one race the Human race, He just made us all diffferent colors. It seems a shame that when the Creator shows his/her strength n power , might n majesty through acts like floods, earthquakes n the like we all are humbled to the immediacy of the human race. Humility n intellect are compatible , providing we place humillity first. As NAtive Americans we have contributed much to the formation of this country which we should be honored for, and if one doesn’t know or realize thru ignorance they should educate themselves instead of lambasting, n trying to imtimidate another thru might to …be more like us! For might does not MAKE RIGHT! Spiritual protocol must be re-established otherwise this country will never get past “her ” sins”. We cannot sweep the atrocities against a race of people , a loving , kind , compassinate, a beautiful race of people(Red) under the rug any more in the hopes that it will go away. God is still watching n he , through the advent of community requires us to make others accountable. This is the only way to move beyond the barriers of indifference, apathy n hatred to say yes we might be from another culture but we are one of Gods children too! Some of the language used is truly devisive. AS Indians we resolve to move beyond the unresolved grief, pride n shame which keeps us, spiritually sick. This is all we ask of our brothers here on earth regardless of what color, race or religion. We are for the first time in history taking pride(in a good way) of our heritage knowing we count , we have a rite to live happily with out having to endure the pure animosity another might feel towards us ,..out of fear! Getting back to the statement of standing up to this , this NORM, which is slowly erradicating the sense of brotherly love we must all exhibit towards each other, as the creator would have it we must vocalize our displeasure at the treatment of the less fortunate , the different, the marginilized, the handicapped in this the greatest country on the earth! We are not racists as we espouse our pride in who we are, we just ask for mercy and I’m sure this is all those who have been affected in Florida by this act are saying -are asking…would this be okay if it was on the other foot? we say n know it would not, so why is it okay for you to treat us this way? Wrongs need to be made right otherwise another 100 yrs we will still be dealing with the same social issues. Humans are smarter than this, we have cognitive reasoning, freewill, the one thing which seperates us from the animals n angels!I know my comments are based in bias , sort of but as A native american this is my experience. I still have a giving heart full of compassion n potential to help another, to love those who are lost n to help those who are left out of the sense of privilegdge that many,many have in this country…maybe at the expense of a race of people. Personally this breaks my heart, this is not what GOD the creaotr of the universe wanted when he opened up our country for all, maybe for his message of redemption. We pray n smudge n dance…we would hope that many would do the same n HONOR another above themselves, instead of trying to tear down, n maybe even kill. Forgive! n help stop the Bullying!

  7. Sloane

    As a PoC (Person of Color) I need to point out one very important thing that not very many people, especially white people, understand. It’s that there is not, nor ever can be, anything such as reverse racism. There is no such thing as racism against White people.

    This is because Racism = Privilege + Power

    People of Color do not have the historical privilege, nor the societal and social power, to induce the effects of true institutional racism. While People of Color can be prejudiced, they can never be racist because they have no historical precedence for being so. So, for those people who think that reverse racism is a real thing you can just let them know that there is no such thing. You have to have social power and a historical foundation of privilege for that to be the case.

    Not to mention, calling a White person a name does not bring up any sordid past or hurtful genocide that it does when calling a PoC a derogatory slur. Racism is only used to enforce power over another person, to show that in a situation you still have the power to preside over them, regardless of their station. And white people often think, because they are conditioned to believe so, that acts of racism are isolated incidents rather than the common everyday, often institutionalized, occurrences that we as PoC know them to be.

    1. John McCollum

      Sloane, I think that this is an important distinction. It’s one that’s lost on many white people. Growing up, I was taught that racism is simply the belief that one’s race is superior to another.

      The power and privilege parts of the equation are relatively new and thus counterintuitive to many people of my age (40s) and older.

      Indeed, your definition (and the one I’d share) of racism is in process and in dispute. Most dictionaries give the simple notion of racial superiority or the hatred of other races as alternate definitions.

      So, perhaps it’s useful to keep in mind that many people are using the term as they were taught it.

    2. Sarah

      Are you kidding me?? Racism is Racism. No matter what the skin color is. A black person calling me ‘cracker’ isn’t racist? Wake up.

      This is the dumbest blog I’ve ever read.

    3. Dorian

      Racism is making a decision based on race. It can certainly happen to white people. It can happen to anyone. There are even blacks who are racist towards blacks, just as there are women who are sexist against women.

  8. ashley

    Thank you for this. As a white person who is very angry and sad and vocal about the injustice of Trayvon Martin’s murder, I’ve been contemplating whether I have the right to be as angry about it as my black friends. In fact, I was at a get together this weekend where I was the only white girl and I wanted so much to talk to my friends about Trayvon, but I didn’t feel like I had the right. I am very aware of the luxuries afforded to me by the way I look, but my heart still aches for those who cannot just BE without being judged. Thank you for this discussion and for some great food for thought.

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  11. hertie

    Love everything here. Trying to have same coversations in my own household being a black woman with a white husband. It’s very hard to have a deep coversation to those so close to you especially. Praying for God to give you the courage and the words to continue!

    1. Nancy Tipton

      Hertie, I am a white woman who was married to a Black man for 39 years, raising four sons. I intimately know the fear of having Black sons, for mine are proud and stand up for themselves. Their father is gone now, but he leaves a legacy of strength, hard work, discipline and love. But, as the mother of Black sons, I still have the terrible fear for them, perhaps heightened by what I know of how my race really feels. It’s frightening, and every day, even though they are now responsible adults, I worry. I married George in 1969, and you can only imagine what it was like then, even being hard working parents and homeowners. I have been belittled publicly, and have had neighbors hurt my children emotionally from the get go. I’m not saying it is all bad, because I truly feel that a blended family epitomizes our country and what it really stands for historically. But, slavery and the attitude that I think will forever permeate this country is a festering cancer that will continue forever if not somehow drastically cut out surgically. There is no, “well, let us take some time to let it get better”. Bull, bull, bull, it’s been over 200 years already, and I personally feel not a lot of feelings have changed. Treyvon is a perfect example of this. My prayers and cries of anguish go out to his family and all the families that have suffered.

      1. Marla Taviano

        Oh, Nancy. My heart breaks for you. I’m praying right now for you and all four of your sons. I’m so sorry you lost your husband. He sounds like an amazing man. I’m begging God to work miracles in the hearts of those who hate. I don’t see any other way our country can be healed.

    2. Marla Taviano

      Praying for you right now, Hertie. And for your husband. That he’ll be able to have true empathy, and that the two of you can stand as one on this issue. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Jen

    Marla, Thank you so much for writing this. I have had two sleepless nights this weekend because I have such a heavy heart for for Trayvon Martin and his family. I want to blog about it and everytime I start, I’m not sure what I want to say other than I’m ashamed that I haven’t spoken out yet. And when I try to write, I’m consumed by grief for his family and the future of our country coupled with outrage. I completely agree that if Trayvon had been white he’d be alive today. Thanks for writing this.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Thanks, Jen. If you feel compelled to write about it, do it, no matter how ashamed you are that it took so long. I think people will understand. So many times, I write about lighter stuff, because the heavy is just too hard to put into adequate words. So, I get it.

      If you do blog about it, let me know. I’d love to read it.

  13. Rina Moreno

    I am a light-skinned Mexican-American with a family of mixed shades light enough to be mistaken for white to dark enough, they are darker than many blacks. My closest cousin and I are on opposite extremes. She was my best friend growing up, until my light cousins were hanging out with us. I wanted to be accepted and so we mistreated my dark cousin and her slightly dark sister. I grew up and began really analyzing this, especially as I began becoming conscious of the civil rights movement, racism, and discrimination. I often passed for being white and was proud to do so until I realized I hated myself for not really being white. I was hiding but all the hiding from everyone else, I could never hide from myself: as white as my skin is (and really compared to a white person, I’m not so white), I AM BROWN. I finally recognized that my cousin could never hide and she was treated accordingly. She was cautious with others because her experience informed her she couldn’t trust just anyone. She knew who she was and she loved and embraced herself. I on the other hand, as I began paying attention to the thoughts Inalways knew I had in my head, finally acknowledged that I hated myself for being Mexican. I tried figuring out which was worse: loving myself and hating a racist, discriminatory society or being accepted by it and hating myself. Perhaps neither is better. I then switched to wishing I was dark; wishing I couldn’t run from myself and almost preferring to be like my cousin. That translates, once again, to hating myself (for being “white”). I couldn’t win. I am much older now and finally realized, I need to love myself for who I am, a light-skinned Mexican. I learned Spanish and I speak it like I’m Mexican; I say my last name correctly and I dance cumbias. It was a journey, but I reached the other side.
    I completely understand everything you are saying in your blog and I applaud you for going there. Thank you!

    1. Marla Taviano

      Thank you so much, Rina, for being brave enough to share this. I respect you so, so much. Bless you for accepting the you God created you to be. You have a beautiful heart!

  14. Keisha Jordan

    Thank you for sharing. I am encouraged by your willingness to bring this issue to the forefront, even while others believe it’s a fallacy. May God continue to give you a voice!

    1. Marla Taviano

      Thank you so much, Keisha. I used to think (on some levels anyway) that it was a fallacy too. It hurts to admit that, and I pray for forgiveness from God and my black friends for being blind, for closing my eyes to something, just because I didn’t want to believe it.

      May God give us ALL a voice, an EQUAL voice.

  15. OODunn

    I am truly sorry and my prayers are with Trayvon’s family for their comfort at this unimaginable time. Now, on to the race thing. Why did we not see our President, President Obama come on National TV and talk about the Chardon, OH shootings?? Two white guys, one black guy gunned down in cold blood by a white kid. However, one black kid gets shot and killed, the black community rises up in protest, and our black president feels he, the president of the united states of america, whom I have served proudly over the past 11 years in uniform takes to the airways to give his comments. Yes, I think there is a touch of racism in our beloved nation all the way to the top. Can we please get over this already and move on with the future working together as one people, one nation, under God?????????? I am so sick and tired of the hand outs, priviledges, everyone’s history month, except white history month, that would be considered racist of course. Get on with it already. The more we focus on the past, the further into the obiss we sink as a nation while the third would nations come together and concur. Grow up, become adults, act like adults, don’t expect anyone to hand you anything, work for what you want and give all you have into acheiving your goals and dreams without depending on your skin color to get you there. That is how you earn true respect from all and true satisfaction out of life. Again, my true most heart felt condulances to both the families of the Chardon, OH HS victim’s families and the parents relatives and friends of Travon. May God bless the USA and those who fear Him and seek to know Him for who He is, “OUR” creator. Oh yeah, btw, we are all related from way back.

    1. Yalonda

      Good morning – Thank you so much for serving this great country for 11 eleven years. I appreciate what you have given.

      I just want you to know that President Obama did publicly address the Chardon School shootings. In addition, he called the principal of the school to personally express his condolences and thoughts. I also want you to know that he didn’t purposely take to the airwaives to address the Trayvon Martin shooting. He was actually making an announcement of his nominee for president of the World Bank and then a member of the media asked this off-topic question… the president was responding to the question.

      I also want you to know that both are tragic, but these two situations are in no way alike in terms of the motives behind the shootings. Neither is more important than the other… children are dead.

      It’s the motives behind the Trayvon Martin shooting that have black people, in particular, so outraged. Black people are outraged because this is a modern day lynching, and the perpetrator has been allowed to walk free. But, I’m not foolish enough to believe that everyone will feel outrage. Everyone’s heart strings are pulled by different things, and that’s fine.

      Trust me when I say that I would like nothing more than to just “get over this already,” as you suggested, but my heart will not allow me to. In my walk to love mercy and to act justly, how can I? How can I “get over it” when my son is no safer than Trayvon Martin? This is not an isolated incident… it’s just the most recent…and it’s just that it’s so blatant and overt. How do we get over this and move into the future without addressing what’s happening now? How do we move forward and expect justice in the future without demanding justice now?

      You mention “handouts” in your post and it seems like you’re talking about something else, other than the topic of the post. Surely, it’s not a “handout” to expect that a boy could walk home from a convenience store with a bag of Skittles and an iced tea. It’s not a “handout” to expect reasonable safety. It’s not a “handout” to expect that he would not be shot down in the street. These are not privileges either… these are rights. You served our country to make sure we all have these rights, and I thank you again.

      Would Black History Month be more palatable to you if there was a White History Month? I would contend that when I went to high school, White History Month was September through June because I didn’t learn about any people of color during those months, but I certainly learned about all the “forefathers” of our great county. Does that mean that people of color didn’t contribute to our fine nation… no, it just means that the only opportunity that my teachers took to talk about ONE of them was during Black History Month. Black History Month should have just been called Martin Luther King, Jr Month. My hope is that our education system has evolved since then. Like you, I yearn for a time that Black History Month is not necessary because children will be taught the true history of this nation in school. But until then, I guess we have to live with what we have.

      I do agree with you though, people should work hard and earn respect, without depending on skin color to get there. But, we would be remiss if we didn’t address the problem here. There is in fact more than one starting line.

      Regarding the shooting of this innocent child… if it had been my son, and his killer had been allowed to walk free, without being subjected to an arrest or a sobriety test, a full background check, or even a hard line of questioning… I would want the world to be outraged… I would not want your condolences, I would want your help to make some changes to this country that you spent 11 years serving.

      I say these things respectfully and I am glad we live in a country where we can all have varying opinions. I just hope that mine are considered to be well thought out and fact based, laced with appropriate amounts of emotion. This is truly an emotional topic for many and I thank Marla for having the courage to talk about this.

      1. Marla Taviano

        I’m sitting here at my desk, shaking my head in awe at this gracious reply. I actually started clapping, even though there’s no one around to hear.

        Yalonda, every single thing you said resonates as truth to me. I continue to be amazed at how, when I am flabbergasted and unable to form words, God keeps sending people with the perfect words all ready to go.

        I see Christ in you so clearly. Thank you for being such an example to me.

  16. Danielle

    I talked to my friend this afternoon about her son. They are a white family, adopting a black baby (yes I understand the scores of issues that people may have with that, let’s not go there) so I asked her how she feels about all of this. Her husband is currently in Orlando waiting on the papers to come through so that he can come home with their son who was just released from the hospital yesterday. They’ve talked about this a lot this week and have some great perspective, and have learned a lot through the immediacy of this topic to their lives.

    She said to me “I’m going to have to teach my son that racism exists.”

    Ouch, my heart ached for the BEAUTIFUL boy.

    Then my verbal diarrhea took over before my heart grasped the words. “You won’t have to tell him it exists, he’ll know as soon as he is old enough to be social with other kids. He will know, and you’ll have to love him through the fallout.”

    And then the words hit me and I cried for this sweet boy that we have prayed long and hard for.

  17. todd

    I believe that racism is fueled by media and people who cry out for diversity. How in the world in our melting pot of a country can we embrace all of our differences? Why arent we saying…we’re all Americans…let’s find common ground and celebrate the things we have in common…first and foremost? Then…when thats established everyone can bring their diversity and let it shine.

    I cant imagine the hurt and loss in Florida. I wonder if its not actually the color of our skin…but our sub cultures that place fear of others in our hearts. No matter my skin color…if i talk like you, dress like you, talk like you…there are no barriers. But if i am different in those areas we have very little in common…maybe we all need to strive to find common ground.

    1. Sloane

      Unfortunately, being color-blind is one of the most racist things that you can do and is an extremely privileged idea to have. When a person says that we are “All just Americans” or “All just Human” it really detracts away from the struggle that we, as People of Color, constantly go through. It’s a way of whitewashing the past and the responsibility that White people have to fight against racism in the present day. While we are all Human, we are not all treated that way. It’s a very unrealistic, romantic notion. In fact, it was only until recently that black people were even allowed to exist, literally.

      The fact is that PoC (people of color) have to worry about color every day. Every day they see something that tells them they’re not good enough, not smart enough, or that the entire system is constantly against them. Only White people are privileged enough to think that racism is only an isolated incident that happens here and there, and very rarely. The thing that you’re really going to need to understand is that everything you’ve been taught about equality in this country is entirely wrong. Entirely. You’re going to have to take a long look at your life, your actions, and the way that you think to realize that you have immense privileges and that others around you really do suffer and that we do not, at all, live in a post-racial society. People are indeed arrested because they’re black, people are indeed denied jobs because they are a PoC, and that we as PoC cannot just “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” in this country because we started WAY behind the starting line in the first place; We need help just to be at a level playing field with our White counterparts.

      Right now, this very moment, you benefit from White Privilege. You benefit from the genocide of millions of people that died just so you could wear your hair any way you want to, so you could go out and party, so you could go to church and have no one second guess your intentions or your character. The land that your on? My people, as I am Native American, had to be forceably killed and moved so you could have it, just so you could live in your house or go to college. Your ancestors either had to actively kill my people in order to get the land that you’re on, or support a government during a time where it was okay to do so. The same with our highways and railroads built from the backs of early Asian immigrants. The same with the industries that were built on the backs of black slaves. That all culminates in to the privilege that you receive today. White people really have to understand why the thinking that “We are all Human” is in no way helpful, and look at the ways that they benefit from the genocide of millions of people.

      1. Marla Taviano

        Thank you so much for sharing from your heart. I feel like the words “I’m so sorry” would just ring empty here, but I’ll say them anyway. I am so, so, so sorry.

        I was just talking to my 11yo daughter this afternoon about the beginnings of “our” country. I told her that we, as white people, “discovered” a land that already belonged to a group of people, and we shoved them out of our way and/or killed them to get what we wanted. And then we turned right around and brought in a whole new set of dark-skinned people and used and abused them as property. I can’t even fathom what kind of evil makes people treat other people that way. And how something like the color of your skin can be the deciding factor when it comes to your worth.

        She doesn’t understand either. Her four best friends at school are a different color than her (3 black, 1 Asian), and she has 2 cousins who are Native American (1 full-blooded, 1 Mexican-Native American). She loves them so much (and so do I) and can’t stand to see people hate them for no reason.

        How do you explain something that is so inexplicable? I hate that this is our heritage, and I hate that the racism continues to this day.

        I’m praying hard that God will show me how to overcome racism with his love. It seems impossible, but I believe he is big enough. I have to believe that, or there’s no hope at all.

      2. todd

        I dont like the way America decided to push west and “take over” land owned by American Indians. It’s a travesty.

        My great grandma and her sons ( one being my granpa ) left nazi Germany, survived on a long cold boat trip and landed on Statten Island. Then they moved to Ohio, adopted American values and tried their best to make it despite their hardships.

        At what point do people remember the past but decide to live in the present? How to women who were sexually abused move on? How do children who survive cancer with no arms move on? How does someone like you take the circumstances you were dealt and rise above them?

        Im close personal friends with a 70 year old Chipewa American Indian who was sexually abused with severe disabilities. With God, he rose above, became a public speaker and an incredible human being. Guess what? His 8 children, because of being American Indian, had their college degrees paid for. I didnt.

        Ive been to Kosovo and met children who had family members shot right before their eyes-genocide. Through Facebook i still have contact with them…theyve decided to move past that toward a brighter future.

        We’re all faced with choices, priviledges and whether or not to habour bitternees.

  18. Jennifer Ekstrand

    The issue of racism is one that I just haven’t been able to get away from this week. Earlier this week I heard about Trayvon. My library requests that came in included another disc of the eye-opening series Eyes on the Prize and John Perkins’s book Let Justice Roll Down (which I devoured in two days, it was amazing and will definitely be one of my top reads this year).

  19. Friend

    I agree with many of the sentiments expressed here and that there is definetely still racism going many ways in our culture and that this angers a just and loving God. I do however believe that sometimes the pendulum swings too far the wrong way to try and make things right to the point that white people are penalized for being white. My two examples are personal experience.

    My son and our next door neighbor girl applied to the same university with basically the same GPA and ACT score. My son is white and my neighbor is bi-racial. The neighbor girl was offered a full scholarship while my son was not even accepted on the main campus.

    My second example is that someone in our family was teaching at a mostly black inner city school. This person was falsely accused by a young black student of being inappropriate with her. The accusation was made simply because the girl didn’t like being disciplined by a white teacher. The lies were spurred on by the girls family and their friends. The person was found completely innocent, however the person’s career was destroyed. This person had such a hard time understanding why this happened because they only wanted to work with children. They didn’t care at all about what race they were. This person has been going on years of counseling now. So here a career was ruined and a life forever altered because of racism. No one (school administrators, etc) wanted to initially challenge the girl and her family because they were afraid they would cry “you are ingnoring us because we are black”.

    I am sure that there are many advantages that I don’t realize that I have because I am white. I believe and raise my kids that everyone is equal and precious to God. My son’s have many black friends. I am not saying this for people to say “O look at us doing the right thing” because there are many injustices that we are not aware of.

    However we need to recognize that there are reverse issues as well and that often times people use the race card to intimidate and hurt other people. Even white people.

    1. Marla Taviano

      I’m so sorry about your family members. That’s heart-breaking. I do recognize that there are reverse issues, but I’m focusing on my own weakness/ignorance and what I can do to change that. I can’t force those who are different than me to change as easily as I can help open the minds and hearts of those like me (white privileged folks who have inadvertently benefited from racism). Does that make sense?

    2. Miss Terrie

      Please don’t take this the wrong way, but if your son had been admitted to the university with a full scholarship and the other child had not been admitted, would your explanation still be race-based? Part of white privilege is being able assume that you are always the “best” candidate and anyone else was less qualified. My kids face this every day. Both of my daughters are in college programs where there very few students of color. They both are extremely bright and capable young women. Before college they performed hundreds of hours of community service, had GPA’s well over 4.0, and scored very high on college-entrance exams. They continue to maintain excellent grades while they serve the communities in which they now live. Yet, at least once a week, one of my beautiful gifted daughters will call me with a new story about how they don’t “deserve” to be in their particular program (usually courtesy of some arrogant young white male). It’s very disheartening when they know they’ve excelled at every challenge!

  20. HopefulLeigh

    We are privileged in ways we don’t understand or often acknowledge because that’s “just how things are.” As long as we’re surrounded by people that look exactly like us, it’s easy to continue believing the lie that white privilege doesn’t exist. And until our eyes are opened and we begin having this discussions and conscientiously making changes, the status quo remains. No one wants to be accused of being racist or sexist or ageist or any of the -ists. When anything negative is implied, we go on the defense instead of listening and weighing the matter. Thank you for opening up the discussion here, Marla. This is a start. I pray that more voices will cry out for justice- for Trayvon and within the systems in place, our communities, and society- as a result.

  21. Danielle

    I’ll admit, when I first saw your FB post I didn’t read through the link nor did I want to hear what people said in response. I kept coming back to it though, then I saw your blog post and felt like I needed to hear whatever the discussion was. My heart is heavy. I read through the FB thread and my heart was troubled. I read through links that you and others posted and my heart aches. Thank you Marla, so much for bringing ache to my heart.

    I have been described not as white but as translucent, like you can almost see the blood flowing because my skin is see-through. I grew up in a small town where 75%+ of the population had a lot more melanin than me. I was made fun of the first day of Kindergarten because I couldn’t pronounce my teacher’s name correctly. I hadn’t grown up in a home that rolled our R’s. I had to learn Spanish quickly (or at least all the bad words) so that I knew what people were saying about me.

    Until I graduated HS and moved away I had no idea how privileged I was. I didn’t realize that our house that was literally on a hill overlooked the streets in town that was run by the most violent gang. I didn’t realize that many of my friends didn’t come to my house, and I wasn’t welcome at theirs, I just thought it was normal to only see your friends at school. As I fretted over college applications, many of my friends didn’t even apply to schools out of state because they thought that anywhere outside NM wouldn’t take a hispanic or native kid.

    In NM there is a lot of tension between white, hispanic, and native people, most of it surrounding atrocious behavior that happened several generations ago. But none of that tension can be compared to how black and asian people are treated. I didn’t have a black friend until middle school because there were almost no black families in our town. Those who were brave enough to stay were treated so unfairly that most town citizens didn’t even know that black families existed, they kept to their select few because so many people said they didn’t like their kind. Some folks didn’t let their girls come to my 12th birthday sleepover because my 2 black friends were going to be there.

    This is the culture I grew up in, the culture I still live in. As much as this whole discussion made me think of my opportunities and deceptively simple racial biases, it also made me think of some precious kids in our church. I see sweet faces every Sunday from Guatemala, Ethiopia, China, Haiti, Russia, Uganda, and hundreds of other places who are growing up in this culture. I’ve thought of the hateful things people might say to my daughter because she is Asian and I’ve wondered how to prepare her heart for this. These children, adopted into amazing families, are facing some really hard realities as they grown up.

    How do we change this culture for them? How do we make it so that people don’t single these kids out? How do we teach their generation to be mindful of what others are experiencing? How do we teach our kids not to be color-blind but to be color-joyful? How do we get our kids to appreciate the physical differences in all of us rather than seeing them as things to be (at best) ignored, or (at worst) suspicious of?

    Like I said, my heart is heavy.

      1. Danielle

        Oh my goodness, thank you for your kindness. I actually didn’t put this in, but meant to: as much as I thought I understood prejudice growing up, I truly had no idea what it was like outside of my experience as a white girl in a brown town. I am so thankful that God has given me opportunities to see outside of my limited life into lives that are much deeper and richer in experience than mine..

  22. Tarah

    I appreciate this post. In my opinion, it and JM’s long comment, are both way better at communicating the heart of the matter than the original FB article posted. I feel like what I personally was reacting to in the other thread did not have to do with white privilege or racism. It was more about being wise as far as speaking as if we truly know everything about a situation when all we really know is what we see on TV. In general, I am just slow to do that. I do see how difficult it is for people not to react immediately to this situation, though.

    And also I was reacting b/c I feel if you really do have truth to communicate, then do it in a gracious, humble way…..not belittling those who don’t see it yet. If you really want to open someone’s eyes and help them see, telling them that if they don’t see it your way, they must be ignorant, incapable and have no empathy is not going to work. I didn’t like the article b/c it didn’t humbly and graciously communicate truth. It made lots of assumptions that may or may not be completely clear yet, and it basically called everyone who wasn’t quite on board yet imbeciles. That gets attention and inflames lots of people, but is not good leadership or good communication. It’s one step forward and two steps back! However, I completely agree with the point of this post and the heart behind it. It was done with far more humility, far less assuming, and far less belittling of those who are still wrestling through it. It might actually make a person think the issue over instead of immediately turning them off by the arrogance and posturing dogmatism. You both make a lot of good, thought-provoking points here. I really do appreciate the heart that is shared in the post and also from commenters on the issue. Made me think….in a good way! (unlike last night) ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Marla Taviano

      Thanks for being so gracious, Tarah. The fb thread did take a turn I didn’t mean for it to take, and I didn’t know how to “fix” it. This was my meager attempt.

      I’m super thankful for people like you who can see through my mess to my heart. A heart that is constantly in need of cleaning/purifying.

  23. Lisa @ Oh Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy

    I have to say I fully believe and agree with your points however I’m really not sure how white privilege cam from this specific case. The man accused of killing this innocent young man was NOT white?
    And also I think that the list of privileges assumes a certain class of ‘white’ people. As a low income white family we can not afford to live in an area where we aren’t the minority. We live in a neighborhood where we are shunned and mistreated because of the color of our skin. My children have been attacked verbally because not only are they white but they don’t care what color their friends are (as if they had much choice in our area if they want any friends at all). I know that we may be the exception to the rule but there are several of the 26 privileges that in no way apply to my family. But for me, I don’t see where continuing to point out these things makes things better. I mean I get education, and people really don’t get it and watching the Help opened my eyes to how recently much of the constant abuses were happening. Not they are all gone now but I believe at least today the average middle income person would not have the guts to openly be so bigoted. But what I never really hear is how, HOW do we move into the right direction? Will we ever reach all the people who are full of hate?

    1. Marla Taviano

      Great question, Lisa (about the killer not even being white). I definitely didn’t have the time or space (or mental energy) to elaborate on everything I wanted to. I don’t think I made one of my main points clear enough. For years and years, we whites have dismissed blacks as chalking everything up to racism whether it is or not. But I think we haven’t really, truly been empathizing with them (putting ourselves in their shoes). The Trayvon case outraged my black friends because it was piled on top of every other time they’ve been wronged. I don’t have that long history of injustice against me, so it’s so much easier to just write it off.

      Does that help at all? I really appreciate your thoughtful challenge. And I KNOW I’m not getting all of this right. Trying hard though.

    2. Dela

      I love your post, and I hate that your kids are being treated like that! ๐Ÿ™ You may be a “statistical exception” but it should just plain never happen.

      I think for me, as a Black woman, the first step to the “how will things get better?” question is to actually HAVE a conversation, where Black people and White people alike feel completely listened to. I feel right now, it’s really uncomfortable and we all just want to move on, but true understanding won’t come from lack of communication. It’s that way in every relationship.

      As far as “w-privilege” (as we used in my HBCU), the poem above by Yalonda B.W. gives a very unique perspective of raising a son in America; a perspective that White people do not have the disadvantage of having. I hope that makes sense!

    3. Marla Taviano

      Hi again, Lisa. Dela’s comment reminded me that I meant to say the same thing. I’m so sorry for you and your family and how you’re treated. I’m praying for all of you right now. And asking God some of your questions.

    4. John McCollum

      “I donโ€™t see where continuing to point out these things makes things better.”

      Racism and White Privilege in the U.S. are two sides of the same coin. We cannot truly address racism as long as we as a society refuse to accept the existence and the power of White Privilege.

      And White Privilege DOES relate to this case directly, at least as it operates in the converse: Trayvon Martin was a suspect simply because he was black. His killer would not have shot a white kid acting, walking and talking as Trayvon did. And if he did, he would have been arrested, and would be preparing his “stand your ground” defense for his trial.

    5. Judy

      At this point, I believe continuing to ‘point things out’ is needed because we need to understand each other and quit hating one another for seeing things differently. I posted stuff about Trayvon Martin for days on my Facebook page, and the only response I finally received was someone posting an article that seemed to imply that race wasn’t a factor and this whole thing was much ado about nothing. He then posted the same article on his Facebook page, and one of the commenters said that Trayvon’s family and the ones protesting needed to ‘grow up’ and quit blaming things on race.

      I don’t think we’re ever going to reach all the people who are full of hate, but we can reach good people who are currently ignorant that are willing to humble themselves and learn.

  24. Tami

    You are so controversial these days, brave woman! ๐Ÿ™‚ Actually, I had to respond b/c this post better clarified what I believe you were trying to say in your facebook post yesterday. I was one of those who at first was defensive and upset that I could be perceived as a “racist white person”, but it’s true unfortunately. Not because of the events surrounding Trayvon Martin (the whole situation really boils my blood, what with NO justice being served right now), but because of a recent photo shown at my church. I’m sure you’ve seen it, but there is an image created (based on scientific studies) of what Jesus really looked like. It’s always been perpetuated through Hollywood and church that Jesus was tall, blond, and blue-eyed. A handsome man, by all accounts. When I saw a picture of someone who was average, dark-skinned, and, well, Arab, I was shocked. Not at the way he looked, but at my instant reaction, which was “terrorist”. I was so ashamed! If Jesus was boarding my plane today, I’d probably peg him as a possible terrorist…if TSA hadn’t done it already. It was seriously a wake-up call. First and foremost, we are all *human* and loved indiscriminately by God. While sin prevents us from seeing that sometimes, it is ONLY with the redeeming power of Christ that we can overcome it and love like God loves. And we need to try daily to do that…with conscious, prayerful thought (and, by extension, action)! My prayer is that we do learn empathy for one another, and for once not allow our defenses get the best of us.

  25. Niri

    I feel better for a world with people like you in it. come from South Africa and lived under racism and apartheid and I was relieved to be in USA where I thought my skin color would not matter. This year I am shocked to say there is more racism here than in South Africa.

    I once heard something on NPR about racism not being something Black people need to acknowledge but White people – it is just something there and we need t accept it so we can deal with it.

    You give me hope with your clear and honest views. Thank you for writing this.

      1. John McCollum

        Thanks. I have to be careful. It feels safer to comment on controversial subjects on other people’s blogs. If I speak about them on my own, it’s easy for people to confuse my own personal opinions with policies and opinons of the organization I represent.

        I’m waaaay less confrontational and controversial than I used to be, mostly for the good of the organization. Also for the good of my own sanity…

        1. Tara Livesay

          I get this John. Being donor supported and tied to an organization can take the legs out from underneath you. My parents told me I’m offensive when I say this stuff and that I’ll lose support for our work in Haiti …. I wrestled with that for a year but I decided if standing for what I believe strongly is right causes someone offense and they pull their $50 a month, well, I probably didn’t need that $50 anyway.

          1. John McCollum

            Yes. And I still do comment when I think it’s essential.

            I work with a wide variety of denominations, half of which would be alienated if I posted everything I think about, say, a particular piece of theology, politics or sociological trend.

            I reserve most of my energy for things that directly relate to my area of expertise and the focus of my ministry.

            In general, I try to not discuss controversial issues unless:

            1) I’m in a real (as opposed to web-only) relationship with the person (in this case, Marla);

            2) I see hope of either being influenced to see things the other person’s way or

            3) I see some hope of the other person seeing things my way.

            The world has enough pundits already. It’s the relationship rather than the rhetoric that is the killer app. Plus, there are people out there who can speak more convincingly than me on most issues I’d weigh in on anyway.

            The churches I work with are quite diverse. They’d disagree with each other (and with me, depending on the topic) on issues of spiritual gifts, on eschatology, on evolution vs. creation, on issues of women in ministry. As long as they’re united with me on the role of the church in caring for orphans, I’m better off not alienating them with side issues.

            As my pastor observed, I have a limited number of bullets in my gun — I need to be careful in choosing my targets.

  26. Mandy

    This made me cry at 9:45 a.m. And I’m so glad. Thank you for writing this Marla. You are brave and real and honest and I needed to read this today. I totally agree with you and I’m glad to be reminded of my natural bent toward racism (being white and raised in a white community) and white privilege (which I totally have). I am reminded that it’s good to own up to these things, confess them to God, and ask him to keep changing my heart (as he has been, praise him for that). I’m reading The Hole In Our Gospel again, and this post clicks with that and reminds me of how important it is to know in my heart that every human being is created in the image of God and that God loves each one of us equally. And then to act on that knowledge by loving (in action) every one of my world-wide neighbors as Jesus has loved me. Only by the power of God can I do that, but I CAN DO THAT BY THE POWER OF GOD! All who belong to Jesus can if they choose to.

  27. Rebecca

    Really great post. I just lead my Law Class in a discussion about this case and the discussions were phenomenal.

    I appreciate your honesty and for “putting yourself out there!” ๐Ÿ™‚

    Rebecca

  28. Sarah Hubbell aka MainlineMom

    Marla I love you more than EVAH for this. I would have given up that argument I saw on your FB page long ago but you are tenacious and yes, we MUST continue to raise awareness and seek to educate our brothers and sisters who don’t understand white privelage. We’ve got to continue to fight injustice everywhere, including here at home.

    Honestly when I first heard Trayvon’s story it angered me that all the people holding signs and posting on social media about it were black. I was so unbelievably shocked by this story, especially as a mom considering adopting a black child. This story scares me so much that it does make me hesitate to bring a black child to this country and give her an even greater disadvantage of being raised by white parents. But I know that’s the Enemy at work, putting all those doubts and fears in my head. I can’t chicken out. I read that poem above and I weep right along with her, feeling exactly what she feels, dreaming of my future child.

  29. Emily S.

    May we see change in this lifetime. May we be change in this lifetime. Keep fighting the good fight, Marla.

  30. Addie

    I was/am outgraged over the whole Trayvon thing… its so immensely sad.

    But as a white girl, who grew up in the black ghetto, where I was the minority… well, I can say that, at least in my experience, “whites” dont always have the privilege or the advantage… even though, honestly, that is what my old-generation white parents modeled… but its not always what I experienced.

    With that being said, I put my kids (2 bio white, 1 adopted Asian) kids in public school where they are also the minority and we live in a neighborhood that is split and their best friends are black and latino… and if you ask them, they barely see color and see no difference in class… so I hope maybe we are starting to bridge that gap for them

    I love that you are willing to stick your neck out for something you believe in – I can respect that… especially when its not popular opinion… it hurts to be kicked in the gut, but keep standing – it will help to grow your character more than anything

    1. Marla Taviano

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Addie. I’d love to hear more about what life was like for you growing up.

      I think the difference with a white person being a minority is that there’s a good chance he/she can move on someday to another part of town or another state and live a completely different story. Does that make sense?

      I love that your kids have friends of all colors. Mine do too, and it’s such a blessing. My oldest went to a sleepover recently where she was the only white girl. I hope and pray God can use her (and our whole family) to bring reconciliation and justice to all.

      1. Addie

        I think you are true about the moving to a different part of town or different state… a very valid point… although since I am from a small town, the joke is that our town is a black hole – either you will never move, or after you move, you will get sucked back in (seen so many people move to bigger and better just to move back “home” a few years later)

        Id love to hear someone’s opinion on the racism that exists within the black community… my husband is a middle school teacher at a public school and more often than not, he sees more racism from the lighter black skinned kids against the darker black skinned kids way more than between the blacks and whites (I feel so weird just labeling the majority “blacks” and “whites” b/c there are so many differences within that spectrum)

  31. ellen

    I understand these posts – I do- but I will not feel guilt for being WHITE — is there privelage – yes – have white people done bad things yep — just read The Help – I am not stupid, blind, or putting my head in the sand — I have had wonderful friends of color — any color – since I was in middle school – do I know what it is like to be of color – nope and I won’t – do I know what it is like to be a child of God – yep and He isn’t color blind — in justice SUCKS and it goes ALL ways – women still don’t get paid what men to – but I won’t appologize or feel guilt as some want to do for who I am and how I was born — can we fight INJUSTICE – without pointing fingers???? guess not — I will fight injustice every where – here, Haiti, Cambodia, Mozambique, Ethiopia etc I will and I will stand up for Jesus who’s heart breaks of injustice and finger pointing

    1. John McCollum

      It’s not necessary to feel guilty. It IS, however, necessary to recognize the privilege and to work hard to obey the scriptural admonition to model our attitudes and actions after Jesus who, recognizing his privilege, was unwilling to benefit from it, making himself nothing and pouring out his life for others.

      If our first reaction to injustice is to deny the forces that empower it while willingly accepting the benefits the injustice affords us, we’re pretty clearly not on that path.

      If we minimize the effects of racism and white privilege, how can we consider ourselves active participants in God’s justice agenda?

      Perhaps if more of the passion we as whites tend to expend on self-justification and self-defense was leveraged toward the victims of injustice, we’d be a lot further along as a society.

      1. Marla Taviano

        I agree 100%. It’s not about guilt. I can’t help being white anymore than someone can help being black. But I can open my eyes to the privileges I have and the ones my black friends don’t. And I can pray for the gap to close.

      2. ellen

        maybe I already understood this and that’s why I’m confused — have never doubted my privelage – try not to use it as an excuse or advantage – so I aggree with following Christ’s example — everywhere for every one at all times — if the world understood this we’d be in heaven now –

        ‘Perhaps if more of the passion we as whites (people) tend to expend on self-justification and self-defense was leveraged toward the victims of injustice, weโ€™d be a lot further along as a society. ‘

  32. John McCollum

    Racism threatens not only the bodies of black folk but the souls of white folk. Understanding and acknowledging the role of white privilege is foundational in addressing the deeply entrenched, systemic nature of racism in America.

    As a white kid raised in a working-class home by parents who were socially, politically and theologically conservative, I didn’t understand even the most basic operational principles of race until I was an adult. And I’m still learning.

    I didn’t want to hear anything about white privilege. If anything, I thought, we blue-collar whites had it rough — we got blamed for everything.

    I was in my late 20s, working for a large evangelical church when I participated in a casual discussion that changed everything for me, creating a willingness to begin accepting what we’d now call “white privilege.” One of my co-workers said something like “White men face more discrimination than anyone else in America.”

    Our black friend who, by the way, had grown up in a more prosperous family than mine, (and who drove a nicer car and wore nicer clothes) turned and asked, “How many times have you been stopped by police while driving around town and asked, ‘Where are you going? What are you doing? Do you have any drugs or weapons in your car?'”

    My friend and I replied that we’d never had that happen. “Four or five times in the last couple of years,” said my black friend. “And when you’re stopped for a traffic violation, how often do the police call three cruisers and ask you to get out of your car and stand with your hands on the hood while they look inside your car and question its occupants? It happened to me twice in the last year — once in Worthington, once in Dublin. And one time it was with my son in the car.”

    It took a personal experience with someone I knew, liked and trusted for me to begin to see that my skin affords me certain advantages. I can drive through any neighborhood I like without arousing the suspicion of the police. I can walk through stores without being followed by security. I can interact naturally with the police and not be automatically considered dangerous.

    And as I opened my eyes, my mind and my heart, I saw over the next few years that my friend’s experience was not isolated — it was the common, standard black American experience.

    So when situations like the Trayvon Martin tragedy hit the news (although, more often than not, they’re passed over or covered up), I now understand the anger and frustration from black communities. They’ve been telling us this for years. But every time they speak up, most whites — including (and especially?) Christians — roll their eyes and tell them they’re whining, or that they’re just looking for unearned sympathy and advantage by “playing the race card.”

    And so when, finally, a kid is murdered in what appears to nearly all black people to be another in a long, long history of racist injustices, his killer protected by the white establishment, when the case finally gets the attention of the wider society, it’s excruciating and infuriating to hear white people say, “Why do you want to make this about race? How do we really know that played into this at all? What WAS that young man doing in that neighborhood, and why didn’t he submit more willingly to this man’s interrogation…”

    White people, open your eyes. You’ve been blinded by the very privilege whose existence you deny.

    I too fear for my black friends’ children. All of my children are Asian. They’ll face certain prejudices and stereotypes, but at least they won’t be treated as criminal suspects by default on the streets of their own neighborhood.

    I think of Matthew, a tall, athletic and intelligent black child who lives down the street from me in my very white Clintonville neighborhood. His parents are better educated than my wife and I, they make considerably more money and live at a much higher lifestyle. Economically speaking, Matthew is more privileged than my kids. But he carries with him a disadvantage that he can never shed in our deeply and pervasively racist society: his skin.

    If a white kid accidentally kicks his football into a yard adjoining a playground or park in most neighborhoods in America, he doesn’t have to fear being treated as a potential burglar or mugger if he climbs the fence or rings the doorbell to get it back. Matthew will never have that privilege, that advantage. And if he gets shot by some self-appointed neighborhood watchman, his family has no right to expect justice for their child or due process prosecution for his attacker.

    Unfortunately, this reality undermines the very foundation of the narrative most cherished by white Americans in general and conservative white Americans in particular: the myth of meritocracy. The myth of an even playing field. The myth that those who prosper do so because they work harder than those who don’t. The myth that privilege doesn’t exist and that racism is just an excuse used by blacks to avoid responsibility for their sorry state.

    But what if the myth is just that? Can those of us who worship a God who chose to give up all privilege to be born into a poor, marginalized community living under the thumb of a privileged Roman majority at least be open to the pleas of our brothers and sisters who have told us for years that they’re being treated unfairly?

    If we can’t, I fear not only for the lives and livelihoods of our black friends and neighbors, but for the hearts and souls of us white folk as well.

    1. Judy

      John, may I post this comment on my Facebook page? I can attribute it to you or post it unsigned, whichever you prefer.

      Thank you
      Judy

  33. Sharon

    Marla,

    Thank you once again for sticking your neck out there to bring up something I’ve never thought of before. “White privilege.” Reading your post reminded me of something that happened in 2002. 9 young adults flew (from the US and UK) to Canada to work as camp counselors for the summer. Guess which one of us was detained by immigration at the airport for many. many hours? A guy from NJ with very dark skin. As for us white folks? We all breezed through immigration with zero problems.

    I totally agree that racism is very, very real. As is “white privilege.” Thank you for opening my eyes to the unfair privileges I get simply due to the color of my skin.

  34. Claudia Porpiglia

    Trayvon Martin was killed in my neck of the woods and from the beginning the events put a knot in my stomach. Many details are not available to all of us but some things are. The neighborhood watch captain had a pattern of calling about suspicious, young black youth. Yes, the neighborhood was a gated mostly white community BUT there were black and hispanic families living there which he would have known since he headed up the neighborhood watch. The young man had a hooded sweatshirt on because it was cool and raining…that is why he had his hoodiie over his head. The neighborhood watch captain was licensed to carry a weapon but when on neighborhood watch was not supposed to be carrying. (As a concealed weapons holder who volunteers with our police dept, I NEVER carry when volunteering because it is forbidden.) There are other details that make my stomach church but they all come back to the same thing, someone making a judgment without the right information or authority to do so which ultimately leads to the racism conclusion.

    As for why the man has not been arrested, it is not uncommon in possible self-defense situations for the police to wait for the grand jury to make a decision. The man is not running away and has not avoided authorities. Does this mean that anyone involved truly believes that this was self-defense? Not necessarily. The law is not perfect and neither are those who are assigned the job of interpreting and enforcing it.

    OK…maybe this is too technical or factual…I believe that this situation is a great opportunity for those of us in the community of faith to truly examine our hearts and recognize that racism can be very subtle and easily justified but not right. It is time for us to truly seek to follow Christ’s example in the gospel of loving everyone, warts and all! Color is not the only way we express racism…We choose sins and make assumptions about the people who participate in them. We make assumptions about other churches. We see a homeless person and often our reaction is one of judgment, not mercy. It is time for the church to be the church and that means getting over our personal opinions and judgments and getting on with the mission of extending grace and mercy to those God puts in our path!

  35. Jolie

    Of course…. I’m being super general with my “whites” and “blacks” and forgetting other ethnicities. I want us ALL to be unified, I just feel like this discussion is heated around the relationship between black and white folk.

  36. Jolie

    I was saddened by the response on your facebook wall, but understand the feelings of those behaving in a defensive manner. Racism is complicated – it is deeply embedded into our society. And I understand – and experience – the feelings of defensiveness when I read blacks’ despair with our society. I feel like it’s personal to me because I am white, and at times I feel like I am being told that if I am white then I am racist.

    BUT – when I can get past my defensiveness, I think what is important for whites (especially those who care about racial justice and find themselves defensive when racism is the topic at hand) to realize is that the frustration is with THE RACISM and THE INJUSTICE – not with whites (and if it is a frustration just with white people, then that’s another story). WE SHOULD be frustrated too – many have pointed out that it was a Latino that was the culprit in this case. True – so why are so many whites up in arms about being called racist? The accusation, I think, is fair – not that all whites are racist but that are society has a long, LONG road ahead of us to getting to a fair, equal, and unprejudiced ground. I feel the same way (though the prejudice and consequences are not as severe) about women in society. I really liked the white privileges you listed – something I think we easily forget because we have never had to live without them.

    I hope blacks and whites, especially Christians, can be unified in at least the notion that we all yearn for justice. I hope I can set aside my pride and agree that not everything is fair and right in our culture. It is not easy, and part of my duty is to recognize my white privilege, and not feel like that incriminates me, as in, “I must be racist because I have white privilege,” but feel called to action in my daily life to give those privileges to all.

    Thanks for sharing, Marla!

    1. John McCollum

      I think it is definitely possible to not be racist per se, but to benefit from racism. Not all whites in America are racist. But all whites benefit from institutionalized and deeply ingrained racism. That is the key to understanding and accepting white privilege.

  37. Shannah

    You’re right, Marla. I am far too comfortable in my obliviousness. I can too easily just pretend it’s not “about race.” But it is. And I am doing nothing to see things change. Ouch.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Thanks, Shannah. It’s been super-humbling for me to admit that I’ve been blind. I like to think of myself as above racism, but when I’m “comfortable in my obliviousness” like you said, that really isn’t possible.

  38. megan bradford

    Thank-you for this post friend. We have so much to learn about racial injustice. I am so thankful to be in the chuch we are in. Maybe this post can spur on more conversations there!

    1. megan bradford

      Yalonda- thank-you for sharing your heart. I weep that my boys don’t have to worry about this, but some of their best buddies do. I want to raise my children to not live with that ‘white privilege’ engrained in their lives……..not sure how.

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