We are living in a time when our country is becoming more and more aware of white privilege. According to Wikipedia, “White privilege is a term of societal privileges that benefit people identified as white in Western countries, beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political or economic circumstances.”
Around our conference in recent months we have called white people together in small groups on our districts to learn about this reality in our world and in our churches. More of us will gather in churches and districts this month and next to discuss what it means to use that privilege and power to discriminate and build walls of institutional racism.
Many white people unknowingly have lived in a “white bubble” of family and social circles all their lives. They may not realize they have privilege that on a broad, systemic level causes harm to others who don’t. These are important conversations, and we will—we must—continue having them, as we enter courageously into ventures over these next four years that respond to the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference’s Call to Action. It is a call to begin building racial awareness and understanding, while making progress in the cause for racial equity and harmony among all peoples.
Recently, I had lunch with an old friend who works with the Deaf community, and she told me about the new twitter feed #hearingprivilege. I have worked in the Deaf community for many years, but this was new to me. It is similar to the dynamics of white privilege. Hearing people have many more advantages than those who cannot hear. Yet it is often taken for granted. Here are some of the tweets:
“Hearing privilege is being able to hear the ‘loud and verbal commands’ given by the police before they shoot.”
“Being able to find and meet with a mental health professional who speaks my language (sign language).”
“To be able to walk into your gurdwara (Sikh) or mosque, church or temple and fully understand and participate.”
“To be educated in your own language, alongside people you can actually understand.”
The truth is, everything we are and have in life can be a privilege. And it can all be shared with less privileged sisters and brothers.
I remember Deaf members of the Deaf Church I served in Baltimore having “seeing privilege.” Some other members were deaf and blind; so those who could see had a privilege over those who could not.
Some of the Deaf members would interpret the visual signs of the worship services for the Deaf-Blind members through a tactile sign language that “spoke” into their hands. Thus, the Deaf-Blind members could “feel the Word of the Lord” by a tactile reception of the signs.