Oh, Honey! Come Here, I Think Your Privilege Is Showing

Earlier this month, my daughter caught a cold, the first cold of the season, in fact, which always hits her the hardest.  Her nose becomes a facet, her lips redden and chap, her night song of coughs and moans start half an hour after she falls asleep and we know we’ve hit the climax of her cold when her right ear inflames.

Late one night she wandered downstairs where I was working, cupped her ear and begged me to hold her

I pushed my laptop aside and asked, “Do you want a glass of juice?”  She gingerly shook her head and nestled into the nook of my arms.

“Do you want a glass of water?” Again she gave me a small headshake as she rubbed the ears of her stuffed bunny.

“Can I heat you up some soup?”  I pressed, because this is what we mamas do: when by the strength of our hands and the fierceness of our love we can’t make the pain stop— we offer food or drink, hoping to nourish our babies broken bodies and comfort our anxious hearts.

“No, Mama I just want to watch something” She whispered.

So I flipped through the On Demand guide for a holiday show I have NOT seen. Having watched everything on Lifetime and HGTV, I came across a cooking show on The Food Network by a fiery, charming redhead with a strong Southern accent.I figured if my daughter wouldn’t eat, I’d give her a feast of the eyes, so we I tuned in as this captivating woman made simple, divine peppermint fudge for a holiday gathering.

For the whole show we sat still and utterly engaged as Ree Drummond created dish after dish after glorious dish.  She cooked with butter, said “y’all” every so often and her stove was stainless steel. I think I was a little bit in love. So was my daughter.

“Mama, when I’m better I want to make all that.”  Trinity said as the show closed, revived a bit by the thought of food.

“Me too, Baby!” I promised, “Me too”.

After our third episode, my daughter finally fell asleep under the influence of Tylenol and the glass of orange juice I tricked her into drinking. I propped my laptop on the arm of the couch where we slept, strained to reach the keys without disturbing the child recovering in my nook, and entered one of my go-to Google searches when I’m noticing a crush on a Southern celebrity coming on.  I took a deep breath and typed:

“Ree Drummond, black people, diversity”

I found two posts:  One on her “black” grandpa who turned out to be well tanned white grandpa but having close relationships with a “black” person made her feel special and unique and another post on her homeschooling method to teach diversity using multicultural play figures.

Neither one quite related to me, an African-American budding fan of the Pioneer Woman.

And I closed my laptop, snuggled into my daughter’s curly hair and sighed, ‘when will these women use their voices?’ I wondered, drifting to sleep and dreaming about those tempting fudge squares feeling equal parts guilty and gluttonous.

This Google search that’s almost second nature to me is my first line of defense against disappointment in white bloggers, particularly those whose vernacular and values match my Southern upbringing.   With this Google search I know what I’m getting myself into and can cut through the crap of Southern charm to find out what they’re truly about.

As I fill in the search field, I feel like Hector Elizondo in “The Princess Diaries 2” who cornered the young, charming and sexy  usurper of Mia’s destiny and asks, “am I going to be disappointed with you?”   Because I do get disappointed with white celebrities from the South.  Like I was with Paula Deen and now I am with Phil Robertson of the A&E reality show, “Duck Dynasty”.   Their ignorance is showing and I’m sad.  Once again, they’ve revealed that the racism of the South is still infecting good and Godly people.

So, I sigh, shake my head in frustration and keep my finger at the ready to Google the next, great sensation with Southern charm…”Home Free” from “The Sing Off”…I’m looking at you…

The Sing-Off - Season 4

P.S. I know they’re from Minnesota, but they’re a decidedly country group and my prejudice automatically puts them in the “be careful, girl” box.

I wanna love these celebrity Southerners, but I’m afraid being let down by them.  I’m scared of falling in love with their words, checking in on their blogs day after day to find them silent on topics of race and privilege.  I’m tired of  viewing tons of pics of their “soul sisters” and not finding a single Sister among them.  It’s heartbreaking and quite frankly a misuse of their voice.

So I Google search their “diversity portfolio” and if they come up short, I immediately look for one star reviews on Amazon in an attempt to mitigate my broken heart. Another Internet blogging crush bites the dust.

Since I wrote last on racism, privilege, and diversity, I’ve had several white bloggers, most of them happen to live or come from the South say to me, “I really want to talk about this but I don’t think I have the right to, I mean…I’m white”.

To which I say, because you’re white, you need to talk about it.  Because you haven’t had to think about it, you need to think about it now.  Because you’re in your homogenous bubble, you need to hear my story as a black woman in America so you can share it with your white, and at times, clueless readers.

The truth is, your voice matters and it has power. As a white blogger in the South,  your acknowledgement of my experience brings a much-needed validation to the racism I dealt as a young, insecure black girl in a predominately white community. If I know you care enough to listen, then I know I can trust you and can hear the best of your words. Speak up and speak life! Your voice can reverberate across the wounded places of my heart and the echos of your acceptance has to power to heal deep, deep offenses!

Because you are white you need to reject the allure of avoiding the topic altogether to write about sexy husbands, deep calls from Jesus, oppressed women in third world countries, patriarchy in the western church, or tasty recipes.  I don’t have that luxury.  I engage with the world and my words as a black woman.  I live with the reality that if you and I knew each other during the Jim Crow era, my son could be tortured and murdered for telling your daughter she’s beautiful.  If you ignore this, then I’m sorry….but Honey, I think your privilege is showing.

Even though you are white please, speak up!  Get on your blogs and tell us that comments like Phil Robertson’s is not ok. Don’t deflect by saying we should care about more important topics.  That invalidates the offense.  Please say to your African-American readers that you know and you understand their frustration.  Maybe you can’t relate and that’s ok…but for the love of God, please, start the conversation!

I need to see that.

I need to see you starting the conversation.  I need to see genuine pictures of you and your black friends.  I need to hear you say you’re talking to you babies about racism.  And I’m sorry, while letting them play with black dolls, buying brown, diverse “play people” or encouraging them to use Crayola’s multicultural crayons is a fantastic starting place, you can do so much more. Dare to do better; dare to be braver.  Are you teaching your babies to speak up, to love, to engage, and to authentically connect? If not, I’m sorry Honey, but I think your privilege is showing.

daretobebrave

Put the power of your privilege to work and speak up.  Don’t let the internet be void of your voice on this topic and don’t allow yourself to have distorted views of black people or racial reconciliation for fear of letting your ignorance show.

I can handle it. I’ve borne the humiliation of my letting my dark skin show for over thirty years, I think can bear yours for a bit.

Step out the echo chamber of your privilege and recognize that I am a human being just like you, a woman just like you, a mama who loves her babies something fierce and I weep at the beauty of our Jesus—just like you.  Recognize these truths and start the conversation with me.

It’s going to be hard and I’m not even going to say I’ll  always understand why you think we’re on an even playing field when it’s rocky, unstable, and riddled with pitfalls that masquerade as government programs or good intentions. I’m not promising that I’ll be super patient when you want to take up our phone call to cry about how bad you feel when you learn about the hardships of being a black woman in America.

I’ll try.

Reconciliation is difficult for the oppressed person too.

I know I’ve got to move past my own prejudices that tempt me to Google you and your connection to my people.  I’m tempted to put up walls when I start to love you a bit.  I want to create a dossier of discrimination if your words or images that don’t meet my standards of diversity— it keeps me safe and in a place of judgment.  So I need you.

I need you, but don’t forget this privileged white Southerner with a platform: you need me and many other bloggers of color with similar experiences, too.

Only then can we destroy the root system running deep in the South that produces the Strange Fruit of racism and ignorance.  We need to clear out space to make way for the Kingdom roots of God’s Shalom that Jesus, our common Lord, lived and died violently for. His blood seeped into the ground to create a new way of being that’s marked by unity, sacrificially loving one another, and eagerly empowering every. Single. Image-bearer—regardless of the color of their skin.

So, come here honey, I think your privilege is showing, but I can help you with that.

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58 thoughts on “Oh, Honey! Come Here, I Think Your Privilege Is Showing

  1. I’m a nobody in the online world, but in real life I’m a white Southern mama and I’m trying my best to listen, to speak, to teach my babies, & to be an ally. It’s not simple, and I always worry of hurting with my ignorance. I didn’t learn it as a child, so I must do the hard work of learning now. I pray and fight so that my children won’t be able to say the same.Thank you for writing this and for extending love.

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you … I am a white Afrikaner daughter of Apartheid, now living in Canada. I grew up fully privileged, on the backs of my fellow South African people due to the systems of segregation and privilege. I carried the shame for so long and I will likely go to my grave talking about this, because it’s my ugly story. I’ve struggled with these same conversations in South Africa, but slowly, surely, through strong and grace-filled friendships across every colour barrier and Jesus as the bridge, it’s becoming more honest, more trusting and it’s healing. (I am so grateful for my friends that I’ve gotten to know through Amahoro Africa.)

    I know my story is not the American South, but it’s racism in our wide world. So, Osheta, thank you for strengthening me in my conviction to tell of what happens to us when we are the privileged ones whose lives hurt others. I don’t think my forefathers realized how much pain they would inflict also on the ones they tried to protect when they implemented Apartheid.

    These words spoke to me so much: ” … your acknowledgement of my experience brings a much-needed validation to the racism I dealt as a young, insecure black girl in a predominately white community. If I know you care enough to listen, then I know I can trust you and can hear the best of your words. Speak up and speak life! Your voice can reverberate across the wounded places of my heart and the echos of your acceptance has the power to heal deep, deep offenses!”

    Amandla!

    • Amen and amen! Thank you Idelette! Your story and your experience speaks to so much of mine, I’m so glad you chimed in. I feel encouraged and full of hope that we can move the Body towards a better way, a Jesus way that’s inclusive and empowering for all people. Blessings!

  3. Your words run hot through my veins, bringing tears. This: “Only then can we destroy the root system running deep in the South that produces the Strange Fruit of racism and ignorance. We need to clear out space to make way for the Kingdom roots of God’s Shalom that Jesus, our common Lord, lived and died violently for. ”

    Strange Fruit, indeed. This year – this year I will be braver and this is my commitment to you: I will join this conversation. I’m tired of having it behind closed doors or pounded out in private messages. Thank you, for starting it. Thank you, for making it safe for me. It should have been the other way around.

  4. Osheta,
    Thank you. I wince and often fail to enter into certain conversations with fellow bloggers and writer friends whose hearts I know. Sometimes it’s just too much. There are things the community of faith needs to discuss as a body, but honestly, some topics are so painful, I don’t know where we’d begin. It makes me weary, but we are admonished not to grow weary in well doing…
    On a lighter note, I will regularly be quoting “Oh, Honey! Come Here, I Think Your Privilege Is Showing” even if only under my breath, all while shaking my dreads and clutching my pearls.
    You did good, girl.
    Grace and peace.

    • LOL! Yes, Chelle I will be mutter the same as well and then I’ll be asking Jesus to give me grace and his heart for the privilege because like it or not they are our sisters. I’m praying for you about those tough conversations and I’m so thankful for your comment. You made me smile.
      Blessings,

  5. Wonderful, beautifully written article, Osheta. As a person with nearly all the privileges, I often don’t see my privilege or others’ experience. Thanks for bringing me further along.

  6. Thanks for this. I don’t know where it comes from, but sometimes I feel self-conscious, like speaking up is presumptuous and unwanted. Thanks for the encouragement to speak up. And for the lovely writing.

  7. Thanks for this. I’m not from the South, but I’m trying to speak out on my blog sometimes, because my friends and I live in communities so white that it’s hard to even find a black person to be friends with, and too easy to pretend racism is not an issue. I know that most of all I need to listen. Thank you for writing kindly; it does help.

  8. We need your voice. Thank you for this. I am from yhe UK, so a slightly different (but still pretty homogenous) culture, and I am learning from you.

  9. I enjoy it thoroughly! I am forced to shake my head and (I hope this is ok) as unfunny as it is, even laugh at myself a little: I have all these “claims” to racial reconciliation: I’m a white woman with a black husband; planting a church in one of the most impoverished areas of New Orleans; having so many black friends that are so dear to my heart (much closer than any of my white friends! Lol)… and yet I catch myself in the privileged mindset frequently.
    Ugggh… moment of truth, right? Ive read articles that send the message that most or all whites are racist even if they don’t want to be- and it totally sets my teeth on edge, (I mean after all, how could anyone POSSIBLY call ME a RACIST! !??) but then i have at swallow hard and remember that “racism” isn’t KKK, it’s the “US and THEM” mentality.
    It’s that tinge of shock mixed with curiosity when i see my white friend with her adopted black kids (btw I would love to hear your thoughts on that)
    Or those times when my husband’s family good on a rampage i don’t understand and my first thought is that it’s their black culture, not their southern culture talking. ….
    Ok one more! ! Last night we were Christmas shopping, and i really wanted to get the girls black barbies, cuz they only have “diverse” white ones. So I’m at WalMart in New Orleans and they don’t have any. I was REALLY disappointed, and honestly feeling pretty good about my non racial self, until the young lady explained they’d sold out… in fact (she says playfully), they sell out so fast it’s like no one wants the white barbies! …..I laughed, but I suddenly felt rejected! !! HAHAHA now im shaking MY dreads! See what I mean? ?
    Osheta, thank you for being patient. With this topic hitting my heart more and more, it’s hard to navigate what’s ok and what’s not. Sometimes it’s like white people do it wrong out of ignorance, and then make it worse if they sincerely try to fix it. So it’s scary! BECAUSE I LOVE BLACK PEOPLE! !! AND I WANT TO MAKE MY BLACK BROTHERS AND SISTERS FEEL SPECIAL, LOVED, AND LIKE THE JEWELS THEY ARE—I RELLY WANT TO STOP SCREWING UP! !! LOL (Help me Jesus! )
    Sigh. Ok. I now feel motivated to take the next string of bprivileged awareness” articles. I need this. 🙂
    Love you Osheta! You’re the bomb!

  10. Growing up in the South, I always thought just “not being racist” was enough. Adopting biracial children has opened my eyes to white privilege and its sins hidden within. I’m so grateful for your voice, Osheta! Thank you for teaching me so much.

  11. I’m in. I am all in with you girlfriend. You are right. My privilege is showing. Forgive me for even thinking twice, Forgive me for calculating my own cost, simply because I can. I am committing, in your comments section, to walk a better road with you. Because it is good. Because it is right. Thank you.

  12. You’ve given me much to think about. Thank you for that. As a white woman having grown up in the south, it honestly never occurred to me that you might want to hear my voice in the race dialogue. After all, as you said, I feel I couldn’t possibly understand what it’s like to be you. And honestly, I guess I’ve been afraid I’d get it wrong, and in getting it wrong, I might somehow offend more. But love takes chances like that, doesn’t it? 🙂 So thank you again for so clearly and eloquently speaking your heart. It has helped me. And now, in the words of the Sarah Bareilles song, “I want to see (me) be brave….”

  13. This lines may have punched me in the gut harder than anything else:

    ‘Because you are white you need to reject the allure of avoiding the topic altogether to write about sexy husbands, deep calls from Jesus, oppressed women in third world countries, patriarchy in the western church, or tasty recipes.’

    I am the granddaughter of Southerners on all sides, raised just below the Mason-Dixon line. I like to think I grew up mostly colorblind, but as an adult I came to realize that wasn’t true. There is a blog post I’ve been wanting to write on race and beauty since returning from a trip to Uganda, but I have to admit I’ve been intimidated to do so. The blogs you mentioned are the majority of the blogs I read. Thanks for the reminder that there are more and other voices that need to speak up and need to be heard. I came by your blog recently and am so glad I did. Keep writing, keep challenging. Thanks for sharing your truth.

  14. Thank you Osheta, as always, your writing is a reminder for me to not get complacent over here. I’m from the South and I don’t have any black friends and I don’t get off my couch to think/do more about these issues. But I want to.

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  16. Amazing, profound piece. I’m so convicted. I’ve committed my life to living cross-racially and working for reconciliation in my city, and yet, so often I fail to talk about it. I fail to write about it. I’m revisiting my (albeit very loose) blog posting schedule after reading this.

    Thank you.

  17. This is brave, Osheta, and this is important. This is also confusing because those of us living in the lap of privilege are often just plain afraid of putting our foot in it – of saying it wrong. And of acknowledging that yeah – we know NOTHING of your life as a black woman However, I do know what it is to be female, to be a wife, to be a mom and a grandmom, to be a preacher person in a world where 80% of preachers are male. So I write from where I am. I hope that speaks to some of where you are, too. But I can’t speak about something I have not lived. So, how do we really help with this problem?

    • I think having a posture of humility and listening to each other will help. I think being open handed with some of our pet privileges and entering into the suffering of others would help too. I think more can be said in standing in solidarity with each other than have the perfect strategy or well-crafted words.

  18. I don’t live in the South, but racism and prejudice are here as well. As an educated, middle class, white woman I think one of the things that make me nervous about speaking out is that I would hate to be seen as patronizing. Help me. I want my children to grow up realizing their privilege (and their responsibility), but I also want to do it in a way that isn’t condescending or minimizing someone’s experience (one I have no understanding or claim to).

  19. I don’t blog, but I do tweet (to a small handful), and I’ll share this. I grew up in east Texas, went to college in Louisiana and grad school in Virginia, and your words resonate with me. It wasn’t until I left the south (for the Pacific NW) that I was able to even SEE all the privileges I had because I am white. I’ve thought about starting a blog in reaction to things like the Duck situations just so I COULD say what I think about those things. Besides trying to fight the good fight in my daily life and raising my kids, who happen to be mixed-race, to recognize racism, what direction would you point me? (Besides signing right up for Shalom in my email, that is?)

  20. Osheta,

    This is my first time to your place via Sarah Bessey. In a strange-same-different way, I totally hear you. For me, the divide I feel stems from living chronically, and (mostly) invisibly, ill. I don’t know one other person who can understand where I live from. People just don’t get it, or don’t care to, or are uncomfortable in asking. And it’s lonely. So, in this way, I get what you’re saying about the understanding part. Though I do believe in giving grace when people get things all wadded up in their mouths, I don’t at all agree with or support what Phil Robertson said recently. But, I’ve also been a little iffy on other things I’ve heard him say. It is all our prerogative to disagree. I think sometimes – because I had quite a few African American friends growing up, one as a best friend – I can forget the issue is still at hand. Thank you for simply saying we all need to see each other better. Because I’m definitely for this!

  21. I LOVE this. Thank you for your honesty and your candor. I’m a blogger, but not a well known one, and although I like to think I’m an advocate for true community among ALL people and racial reconciliation, I have to admit I don’t write about it like I could. Thanks for this invitation – for the challenge – to step up to the plate more often than I do. I’m reaching out my hand to you – let’s hold hands and walk this road together. For real.

  22. Wow, Osheta! I just love this about you!! This post is so raw & honest & it is absolutely haunting me. I’m a white girl in the south. We live in a racially diverse area & my kids attend school with many children of color. I’ve worked hard to teach my children about diversity & equality & love & justice. Yet I come from the generation before, the awkward one. The one where we are so afraid of offending that we don’t say anything at all. But ignoring an issue doesn’t make it go away. I promise to you that I am going to do better at this. Injustice & racism are still very much alive in this country & I need to speak up more. Thank you for inspiring me & giving me the courage to try harder. You are a gem! Love & hugs to you!

  23. I’m a white, Southern seventh grade teacher with all Black and Hispanic students. One of the things I really try to do is have honest conversations about race, privilege, and the culture of power. I’m definitely going to print this out and have the kids read it, but I’d love more suggestions for how I can do this. The “white lady at the front of the room telling you all about being a minority” paradigm isn’t really working for me, surprisingly enough!

  24. Thank you so much for your honesty, Osheta. I’m not a blogger but I’m in ministry with young people and I’m a fellow mama. I’m white and grew up in one of the most racially diverse areas of St. Louis. Working and loving through racial issues was just an unavoidable and amazing part of my life growing up. However, I’ve lived for 12 years and had all of my babies in a very non-diverse city in Colorado. One of my constant concerns is how the reality of living with so little diversity will affect my kids. And in our ministry, I cringe when our team produces new marketing material and all of the faces are white, simply because those are the faces that fill our city and large church. It grieves me because I know what it is to live in a community of diversity, and there is truly a richness that is missing when the voices of the colorful body of Christ are missing. I know the depth and beauty of a friendship that requires working through prejudice, and it has undoubtedly shaped who I am in many ways. I think for years I have felt like I’m just making a big deal out of something that shouldn’t be – “It is what it is” here in our city and the assumption by most of my white friends is that there really is no problem. “Prejudice was an issue of our grandparents’ generation, but nowadays everyone is fine” says the person who has never had any exposure to inner city poverty or a real friend with different colored skin. – But I know better. And there is a responsibility in that. Your post rekindled something in me… I have a voice and a bit of influence nationally with our work, and my experience and feelings on this subject do actually matter. It is an issue worth bringing up. I’m not ejected from the conversation because of the color of my skin. I can speak out and reorder priorities within my spheres of influence. Thank you for challenging me and empowering me to do my part in bringing the true Kingdom into our lives. I will not forget this post. I appreciate you!!!

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  26. So you inspired me to write more about discrimination on my blog. Sometimes when I speak up about it (in various forms), I get my feelings hurt if others react badly, and then I quiet down again. But reading your words here, how trivial I am being! You’ve encouraged me to stay in the fight and to remember I am not supposed to be silent. Thank you, Osheta.

  27. Great post.

    I started blogging years ago from my perspective as a non-Indian Hindu. But I write from my experience as a white person and my experience of Hinduism is definitely filtered by that. I feel like I’m letting down my readers who are Black Hindus.

    So I’m going to make more of an effort to find those voices and give them a space to speak on my blog.

  28. This is bold and fantastic.
    It IS a thorny issue. We’re all paranoid of accidentally offending someone, or of being accused of speaking out of turn.
    But I live with my african american 19-year old son, and this discussion is so normal and often hilarious. We appreciate differences and celebrate them and sometimes, we ask hard questions of each other. But it’s safe and we trust each other.
    The Internets don’t feel so safe.
    But you make me want to be braver.

  29. This is so good. Thank you for speaking out. And thank God that no two people are alike no matter their gender or race and each has a unique purpose. Thank you for living yours out loud!

  30. Dear Osheta, I found your blog (twice) through RHE. I love her. And now I love you. I blog, but usually only about my family-mostly with pictures of my toddler. I have about 8 readers. (no really.) I love your passionate request that white female bloggers speak up about racism and privilege. My minor in college was African American studies and I was hooked from my first class. There is such a pull in my heart to learn more about the true history of our country, and to say something, DO something, about the still ever-present disparity, the gaping chasm between whites and the multitudes of people of all colors, whose skin don’t match mine. I feel freshly challenged to continue, no to start, the difficult conversation, even though it will likely be uncomfortable and make me feel uneducated, unaware, unappreciative, ignorant. I don’t want to be the “white savior”, I just want to be the white listener, the white helper, the advocate. I want to put my privilege aside somehow. I want to remember that I never have to see myself as my race or ethnicity, whereas you never face the world without being a black woman. I don’t want it to be a celebration when “flesh colored” bandaids are no longer peach, I want that to be, like, “duh.” Sometimes I feel like my experience in college makes me too sensitive to racial issues. Too PC. Too aware of how this statement, that action, that product, this show, will affect a “minority” (PS, is that an offensive term?) But I think it’s good to be aware. To be vigilant. To put myself in the shoes, and souls, of those from whom I’m different. Today I will look for my privilege and I will try not to let it show. Thank you for helping me.

  31. Interesting, I love your blog and your thoughts.. mostly cause they’re thought provoking for me and your life is different than mine!

    I have love/hate feelings about this post.

    Hate because it doesn’t help me help you.. or help me help others.. or help me understand.
    Hate because I can’t fix this.
    Hate because it makes me as a white woman the villain again just for being white (although I’m not from the south, only lived there for a couple years).
    Love because we are talking, and that is healthy.
    Love because it’s your emotions, and those are always tricky.
    Love because you’re talking about this topic.
    Love because race is difficult to wade through in the fallen and broken world we live in.

    I actually have a blog post on this topic as well: http://kristaback.com/2014/01/21/frustrations-about-race-talks/

    Please don’t take my comment as attacking or negative, I truly do not mean it that way.
    I love healthy dialogue, even the parts that I don’t like so much because I think we need to start talking to understand! 🙂
    ~K

  32. Thank you so much for your post and for the grace you show even when you are clearly frustrated. I’m not from the South and I don’t blog (I tried once and got exactly TWO posts before I figured out it wasn’t for me), but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a responsibility to respond to your challenge. I’ve been thinking about some of these issues recently because I volunteer with my church youth group. Most of my church is pretty white, but it just so happens that almost every single family that is either not white or is mixed has middle school or high school children (and some that are white have lived in other countries where they were a racial minority and so are more sensitive to racial issues [for that matter, all three of the main adults who work with the youth are either from another country — the other two — or in my case, have lived in other countries extensively]). As I see our youth growing up in this most interesting mix of races and cultural backgrounds, I have wrestled with the idea of how to work with our youth as they are going through issues that I haven’t gone through and don’t understand. For the most part I’ve just tried to be available for them to talk if they wanted to, but you remind me that I should take a more active role in reaching out to them. How will they know that I am a sympathetic ear or that I’m on their side if I don’t tell them?

  33. I live in the town where I grew up in, a very vanilla community that I never realized was “privileged” until a black teenage boy who we lived with for one academic year pointed out to me. The boy who we chose to love and who showed me for the first time how our stories are so very different and who I tried to force to see my heart — that I was truly real in my love for him. I couldn’t understand why “the po po” are so bad and was angered that he would discourage my naive son not to be a police officer — a hero in his eyes. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t join in the banter between the seven other boys about “hot sauce” when for me it was truly just about flavor and to them it was about stereotype. I couldn’t understand how he didn’t believe that I just didn’t see race as an issue.

    Through the years I’ve felt shame at my ignorance and at my “let’s just not talk about it” and “why does it have to be an issue?” philosophy. I want to look in the eyes of my black blogger friend and not see her race, yet when she uses words that I don’t understand I notice our differences and I just want to know more though I am embarrassed at how uncomfortable I suddenly feel over our differences. Why is that?, I wonder. And, dammit I wish it wasn’t that way!

    My son and I had a conversation the other day about race and he said that he didn’t live with any black boys. I reminded him that we did. Eight of them. And I named them and asked my son what they looked like. Still, he didn’t see their color. They weren’t black, they were just dark skinned. And we talked about slavery and mistreatment of people because of their race. I realized some things that he naturally thought all because of his sheltered life, even though in some moments I celebrate that he doesn’t see skin color. Still, his thinking is so jaded and I am embarrassed.

    Where do I begin with him? I trust that God has got him and that God chose where this child will grow up and that He will use it. Still, I hope that my son hears stories that are different from ours and different from the singular ones we know. I hope he hears more than “that’s not fair” and hears more of “this is what it is like for me now, especially in a world that is mostly like you”.

    I am a writer and I want to have this conversation. I am willing to go here. I will step up and say that yes, my privilege shows in most everything I do and say . . . and I want to change that.

  34. I’ve been challenged by this, Osheta. I’m not from the South, but I know it well, having a great grandmother who picked cotton her whole life in Texas and was, well, as shamefully racist as they come, though I loved her. I care deeply about this issue. There are people in my life who are beloved to me who live with the reality of racism, and I want to say more than I do. This week I found a way to weave my personal story in with thoughts on MLK, because the timing seemed right and the words and the connection seemed to come. But I promise it won’t be the last thing I say on the subject.

    Consider this blogger changed by your challenge. (If you can wade through my depression talk, you’ll get through to my reflections of the great hope of MLK.) Like others have expressed here, I feel inadequate. But inadequacy is no excuse for not standing up. Better to stumble then to never take a step?

    http://hopefullyknown.com/2014/01/24/hope-depression-dreams-mlk/

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