I Am White Privilege, Part 5: Overcoming By Embracing

Over the past several weeks I have shared some of my thoughts regarding white privilege.  Many people have contacted me via private message or face to face to state they are cautious about posting their opinions publicly.

This is sad.

We have created an atmosphere of polarization and all-or-nothing comments.  If someone wishes to state they do not believe white privilege is an issue, they are afraid of being branded close-minded and racist.  Those who agree with me regarding privilege are tentative to say anything because of the argument they envision erupting.

We must learn to disagree well.

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I have been repeating that in order to overcome privilege, we must see people as more than categories; we must learn that we are all people who have stories and we should strive to join our stories with one another.

If that is true, how beneficial is it that we still have so many items in our nation defined by ethnicity?

Television networks, movies, music, colleges, even dating networks are categorized by ehtnicity.  Our houses of worship are often mono-chromatic.

Can we overcome the issues created by privilege if we continue identifying these things by race and ethnicity?

The answer is simple:

Yes.

And no.

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We all have a rich history and heritage.  There are positives and negatives to our familial pasts that should be acknowledged.  Knowing our histories allows us to hold on to the habits, traditions, and lessons of our ancestors that we wish to continue passing on to future generations; while also providing the opportunity to change behaviors that we no longer wish to carry on.

Some cultures cling to their ancestors more than others, and they should continue doing so.

We should all study and learn where our families come from and what traits identify them.  We should long to join with others who have a common heritage so that we can share in our likenesses.

As we cling to those things that make us who we are, we find comfort in family practices, work practices, and worship practices.

That feeling of comfort can aid in development of our identities.  Comfort can also lead to closer relationships and a greater sense of self as we interact with others.

Who we are is something to be celebrated.  We should never act as if we have no heritage, nor should we act as if our heritage does not matter.  Our pasts, our histories, are rich and full and should be embraced and enjoyed.

As we enjoy our heritage and embrace those things about our pasts that form our identity, we should find joy in participating in those activities and programs that promote and celebrate our ethnicity or race.

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We should never embrace the comfort of that which is familiar to the exclusion of that which is different.

We cannot learn, truly learn, what life is like for those who are different from us until we experience life with them; until we live in the same communities, study together, work together, and worship together.  If we avoid those who are different we are limiting our educational experiences.

We are also limiting our understanding of what life is like for those who have a different heritage and background than we do.

We must seek opportunities to be with people who are different.  We must look for opportunities to listen to others’ experiences.  We must learn from people who have a perspective different than our own.

We must welcome people, actively invite them, into our lives so that we can share life together.  We must ask people to tell us their stories.  We must learn from their experiences.

As we learn from others, we can apply that knowledge to what we know from our own heritage to create an identity that is not limited by any one culture.

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White privilege exists in our society.  We may have done nothing to create it.  We may do nothing to promote it.  We may actively live in ways to try and overcome it.

But we cannot ignore it.

How is it going to change?  How are we going to change a societal construct that has been in existence since the founding of our nation?

By being different.  By making different decisions.  By not giving in to the way things have always been.

By supporting practices that promote equal hiring and recruiting.  By voting for issues, not personalities or political affiliation.  By fighting for justice to be applied equally and fairly.

By living and learning…

Together.

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