How do I handle my white privilege?

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?
— Martin Luther King Jr.

My name is Amy, and I have white privilege. I was born into a white, middle class, educated family. I earned a college degree and married a white, educated male who is now a small business owner. We have three kids and reside in a predominately white neighborhood in a college town.

I deeply miss the diverse relationships I had in high school; we had various cultures, religions, and race in my friend circle. Korean, Black, Indian, Arabic, Mexican, White, Jewish, Hindu, Christian. I miss recognizing and celebrating diverse friendships, having the weeds of prejudice pulled from my white privilege perspective, and raising my children with a colorful and beautiful view of the world.

I miss the daily academic environment where the table is set to have hard conversations. We had many respectful and robust discussions about our distinct heritages. We not only talked, we were in each others’ homes. I loved the food, the practices, the clothing, and the family life of my friends who were very different from me.  My family now continues to cultivate relationships with other races that are around us, but we would love to - we need to -  cultivate more. The richness of other races in our lives grows such beauty, humility, understanding, joy, and hope. Our soul-soil is in a great deficit when we close it off to any kind of vital diversity. 

Privilege, according to the oxford dictionary, is: “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.” Privilege can feel as obvious as our skin color and as subtle as our literacy. Even right now, if you are reading this blog, your literacy gives you advantage. I absolutely amen “education is a right, not a privilege” - but we can agree, for those who can read, there is an absolute upper hand.

And today, as I come together with four different kinds of women, writing four diverse kinds of blog posts about privilege, race, ethnicity, reconciliation, fears, hopes and dreams - we also have one common denominator:

Jesus.

I sit humbled and thankful that King Jesus is King of a colorful Kingdom. His rule and reign is one where every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord when it’s all said and done. “Every” being the game-changer; we will not be segmented under His rule, we will come under one allegiance, and we will all bow down on the same, level ground next to the cross.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,  and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God…
— Revelation 7:9-11

King Jesus had stunning leadership regarding privilege. He was enthroned in glory, fully God, crowned in all comfort. And He laid it all down. He put down His rights, His throne, His everything. Nothing was taken with Him when He took up human skin and moved into the neighborhood. Paul explains this beautifully:

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
— Philippians 2:5-8 MSG

It is tempting to forget that this is GOD who lived this way. Setting the pace for the good life, He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave. He took up a towel, got down on His knees, and washed grimy feet. He served his heart out, to the point of death.

And so when it circles back to us, to me, I have a big question to answer: What do I specifically do with my white privilege? I often freeze just thinking about my advantages, I feel guilty about them, or I hide them because I don’t know how to handle them well. I want to weed out the prejudices in the garden of my heart and sow seeds of racial reconciliation; I feel sad and embarrassed when I find incongruities in my soul. Who can help us in handling our white privilege?

Praise be to God! If we take our cues from the King, we will find the answer. We don’t have to struggle or hide or be perfect with our privilege. Like Jesus, we simply lay them down to serve.

After some soul-searching, just one of the ways my entire family (kids included) can lay down our white privilege and serve the underprivileged is being a Licensed Foster Care Family. Before you object in your heart and think “that’s for saints” - please reconsider. Those who foster are not saints, they simply have a safe home. The requirement to foster is very basic: a safe environment.

At different times this past year, we have laid down our routines, our comforts, our possessions, and had children in our home for short periods of time (we have done short-term Respite Care), giving a sweet child (we've housed hispanic, black and white children) a safe place to be in the middle of insanity. In the middle of abuse. In the middle of drugs.

Do we lay aside our white privilege perfectly? Absolutely not. Do we try to by faith? Yes. Even if it’s the size of a peppercorn. This is the way King Jesus lived, always by faith. He came down by faith, He laid aside everything by faith, He died by faith - faith in the resurrection to come.

I often have the famous phrase “With great privilege comes great responsibility,” running through my mind. And I can freeze. But, friend, if you also freeze - let’s unthaw together and simply serve. Let’s serve in as many ways as we can. Serve in little ways and great ways. Serve with our voices when we see injustice and serve with our actions when we see helplessness. Serve using our strength for the weak and leveraging our power for the vulnerable.

What privilege do you have, and how can you use it to serve the underprivileged?

May we be known by what we lay down, rather than by any privilege we hold high.