Saturday, July 05, 2008


General Assembly has been over for nearly a week and, aside from a couple days head-in-sand, I've been thinking a lot about what I learned, what I saw, what I heard. A lot of it had to do with privilege and oppression.

Since I've been asked to serve as the head of the Diversity Action Group of my church's board, I paid a lot of attention to matters of diversity, race, oppression, and privilege. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to count my blessings or, in AR/AO/MC (Anti-Racism, Anti-Oppression, Multiculturalism) terms, acknowledge my privileges in relation to the society and culture that I live in.

  • I am male.

  • People - in general - accord me more power and more relevance than they do women. In general, I get paid more and have better chances for advancement in my chosen career (plus, I have more career options).

  • I am Caucasian.

  • Being white - whether examined or not - gives me a plethora of social advantages, subtle and overt. I am not targeted as a potential criminal. I am not viewed as less intelligent, less hard-working, less responsible to my family. I get paid more and have better chances for advancement in my chosen career.

  • I am paid a living wage (and then some).

  • I have (relative) economic security. I owe a lot of money on a house but even that gives me a lot of economic clout. All my potential whims and tastes are valued and marketed to. I can get pretty much anything I want.

  • I am 50 years old.

  • I am given the benefit of doubt in matters of experience. I am not treated like an "inexperienced youth" or a "radical" nor am I so old that others view me as being "old-fashioned" or "conservative".

  • Most view me as heterosexual.

  • I am not denigrated for being non-heterosexual. No verbal abuse, no physical abuse. I have full rights to marry and have it recognized in every state.

  • I feel that I am heterosexual.

  • Even considering my family story, I still default to a heterosexist world-view.

  • I am a citizen of the United States of America.

  • I get the benefits of being a privileged member of the richest society on Earth. I can get anything I can afford (or almost afford).

  • I have a college education and a bachelor's degree.

  • People assume that I am smart merely because I went to college. I don't have to prove it over and over again.

  • I am part of the power structure in my church

  • Since I am visible in my congregation and I contribute both time and money and because I am a don't-make-waves/don't ruffle feathers sort of person, I have been invited to be a leader in my church.

I recognize that these privileges puts me into the group of people that benefits from institutionalized oppression. What I am less sure of is how to fix it, how to change the power structures so that we all have equal power and equal access to power.

Working through the Building the Dream curriculum (my shorter name for Building the World We Dream About) that my congregation is testing, I finally realize that I'm not stupid for not understanding all this stuff consciously, innately. I wonder if we need an identity-based ministry for white people. I'm not sure whether Allies for Racial Equity fits that bill.