Thursday, August 07, 2014

I've moved! Head on over to to read newer posts. Thanks! Dayna

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

White Privilege, Take 2

A friend posted the following TED Talk on Facebook, and I thought it was worth sharing.  A little awkward at times, but worth watching.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

White Privilege

I'm a huge fan of Dr. Ruby Payne's A Framework for Understanding Poverty, as well as the Search Institute's 40 Developmental Assets, both of which point out characteristics, knowledge, etc. that can make children more likely to succeed.  On a broad level, both point out how certain privileges have the ability to totally change trajectory of a person's life.  As such, it only makes sense that I'd be so intrigued by what I'm about to share.

I'm working on a training session for a friend talking about effective youth ministry in a group that is fairly diverse racially and socioeconomically.  While doing some research, I stumbled across Peggy McIntosh's 1989 paper, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.  It's remarkable, if not a little sad, really, that her paper is still so applicable over 20 years later.  The paper is fantastic; I feel like I could quote every sentence, however, I'll just start with a few that set the tone of the rest of the piece.
"I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege. I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was "meant" to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools , and blank checks."
"My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture. I was taught to see myself as an individual whose moral state depended on her individual moral will. My schooling followed the pattern my colleague Elizabeth Minnich has pointed out: whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work that will allow "them" to be more like 'us'."
McIntosh then goes on to list what she calls the "Daily Effects of White Privilege," a list of 50 benefits she has identified that are racially specific (although, as she also notes, it is generally impossible to totally remove socioeconomic status, religion, etc. from the equation).  I highly recommend reading all 50, however, I have highlighted the 11 that struck me as the most poignant at this point in my life.
 5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection. 
17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.
20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race. 
21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
30. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn't a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have.
34. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking. 
 39. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race.
42. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race.
 I can certainly add my own to this list.  Off the top of my head, when I tell people I live in Glenwood, they assume it's a choice, and not that it's the only area I can afford.  It doesn't matter if this assumption is true or not (or does it?).  As a white person interested in race, as opposed to being seen as self-interested (#34), one is seen as a social activist.

McIntosh goes on to discuss the fact that simply "knowing" that whites are privileged (or any other group for that matter) isn't enough to change the system.  The easy way out is to say that we just need to change our attitude.  She doesn't really offer any tangible ideas, but invites the reader to consider what they will do with this knowledge.  I certainly don't have the answers, but the word I keep coming back to is intentional.  An attitude of "inequality is unfair" is all well and good, and might even lead you to take a few stands for what's right.  Usually, though, this attitude stays in the back of our minds, and our actions are apathetic at best.

Of course, this doesn't even address the fact that when most people use the term racism, we use it to narrowly represent only blacks and whites, overlooking the inclusion of many other ethnicities.  I'd argue that McIntosh's list is fairly black/white-focused, as well.

“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”  -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

We have to be intentional in creating change, not just believing in it.

It's been a while...

Two and a half years, actually.  Posting here has been on my mind more lately as I stumble my way through my latest adventure -- serving as School Administrator for Hope Academy.  It's the job I've always wanted. Eight years into ministry & life in Glenwood, and I finally have a full-time job here.  It's been way more intense and demanding than I ever expected.  It's also been a more perfect fit for my skill-set than I ever have imagined.  Every day it becomes increasingly evident that God has been preparing me for such a day as this, and I'm so grateful that He did.

Hope Academy is a private, Christ-based middle school for kids in Glenwood.  Now that Glenwood has my full attention (and is no longer being fit in after work & on weekends), I am thinking more and more about this work that we're called to.  Thinking more about generational cycles. Thinking about race relations. Thinking youth ministry. Thinking about more things than I can possibly list here.

Looking back over posts from the last several years, I've realized that God taught me a lot while writing on this blog.  It only seems fair to continue to process here, if only so that I can go back and remember later.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Excerpt from Jonathan Kozol's "Amazing Grace"

"The message of the gospel is unalterably clear. 'Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away.' Those are the words of Jesus." No exception, she notes, is made for the stranger who talks too loud in crowded trains, or who may be partially deceiving us about his actual condition, or who offends us by his importunity or by his dirtines, or color.

"Do you think of [New York City]," I ask, "as a Judeo-Christian city?"

"I wish I could say yes, but I don't know. If it were, I doubt that we could lead the kinds of lives we do. I think that we'd be asking questions all the time. 'Where does my money come from? Who pays a price for all the fun I have? Who is left out? Do I need this bottle of expensive perfume more than a child needs a doctor or a decent school? What does it mean, in theological terms, when grown-ups can eat caviar while Anthony eats oatmeal? What does this say about a city's soul?'"

Monday, August 03, 2009

Resting in hope and dependence

I sat on my porch tonight trying to write a concise post about the all the feelings I've had about the neighborhood over the last few weeks. As I started and quickly abandoned a handful of posts, all I could do was cry.

Cry for five years of work, play, joy and sorrow all sown into this neighborhood.
Cry for kids growing up.
Cry for the kids who are changing when I had all but given up hope.
Cry for the kids I had all the hope in the world for who are digging in their heels.
Cry for a million other things that I don't know how to express.
Crying tears of joy and sadness all at the same time.

This summer has been immensely refreshing for me. Being in Glenwood for 5 years now, I have experienced significant seasons of spiritual drought. But this summer, particularly during and after camp, I have come to know a joy and lightheartedness I never thought I'd get back. As hard as things are in Glenwood, the last month in this neighborhood has pure joy, and that's something I haven't been able to say for the last few years.

What has made the difference? I'm not 100% sure. Things haven't significantly changed in Glenwood. All of the same problems are still here. BUT, I feel like I'm looking through a new lens. God has brought significant emotional healing to me recently, which has given me a greater hope for our friends in the neighborhood. He's also been teaching me to release control to him (in a number of way), because the truth is, he knows what he's doing and he'll always speak when necessary. It's funny how placing our hope and dependence in Christ can shift our outlook so significantly.

By shifting my hope and dependence back to Christ, I am experiencing the rest my spirit so desperately needs...and out of that rest comes joy unspeakable.

Monday, July 20, 2009


This weekend my thoughts frequently drifted back to this incident (and this follow up).

It still breaks my heart. Tonight, I'm praying for all those recovering from domestic violence, and for those still trapped in it...both the victims and the abusers.

Let's pray for them together.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I hate that I have to be cautious...

I was just hanging up the phone after a conversation with my mom, rounding the corner into my living room. I looked to the front door and saw a black sweatshirt hood in the window of my front door. I usually have the curtain down, but had pulled it up to let some sunshine in today...of course, it was dark now, so I could not see who it was. I assumed it was one of the kids, although the person seemed too tall. Three siblings showed up a few months ago and tried to scare me by knocking on my door and covering their faces completely with their hoods. Needless to say, their giggles gave them away. Tonight, though, it was not one of them.

The man had jumpy guess is that he was using. He was looking for a man who lived here who used to help him out with food sometimes when he was hungry. I let him know that the guy (if it was even the same one!) moved out a year and a half ago. He asked if I had some money I could give him to get something to eat. I let him know that I didn't have any cash and that I was sorry. He left.

I don't have a lot of food in my house right now, but I did have a pack of peanuts and some crackers I could've given him. I just didn't feel comfortable opening the door. We were speaking through the door, so we both had to be close to hear one another, but he was pushed extremely close. Having the suspicion that he was using made me even less willing to open it. It's not that I think he would have tried to harm me, but it would have been VERY easy for him too.

All that to say, I hate that I could have helped, and didn't. I hate that I have to be cautious. I hate that I have to worry about protecting myself. I wish that it was as easy as opening the door, inviting him in and sharing a meal. But as a single woman, that's just not an option.
I trust that God will provide food for him. I know that his provision does not rely on me. I just hate that the world is broken to the point that I feel like I have to fear people.