"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

White Privilege II – Reflection on a post-Christian Concept

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Now available… privilege cards, so you can preserve a permanent record of the shaming of your friends.  I notice she left ‘citizen of the First Workd’ off the list.

I wrote a few weeks back a long, long reflection on the post-modern idea of ‘white privilege’.  I came across a couple of other articles, written entirely from a secular perspective.  My critique of the concept is principally from a Christian context, as I can see no indication in Christian teaching that we have the option of segmenting one group along racial lines.

CBC editorialist Rex Murphy published this reflection back in May 2015.

I’ve seen the captious phrase “white privilege” — a camp neologism by my reading — very often lately. It emerges from the intellectual marshes of social justice “educators,” a typical pseudo-concept from that roiling pastiche of academic pursuit.

At base this nonsense asserts that white people come equipped — habited as it were — with all sorts of advantage, opportunities, easy dealing, and in general a faster better reach for the good things of life than human beings less pale. The phrase has not surprisingly spawned a slogan — after all, what academic discipline doesn’t aspire to the abrupt short-thought of a bumper sticker? — Check Your Privilege. Which translates into a hectoring from social justice warriors, as they so deliriously style themselves, for white people to stand back and tabulate with tearful guilt the infinite advantages that result from their epidermal good luck. […]

The obsession of seeing everything in race-coloured terms is itself racist. Anti-racism pursed by zealots transforms itself into the very vice it deplores. This is the cost of identity politics, and its close bedmate, victimology enterprises — the desire to judge, define, represent and indict the individual by the group he or she belongs to. Every human being’s experience in its infinite particularities and potentials transcends category.

It is to the great shame of modern universities that they have debased themselves to the pursuit of these follies, and that they do not cast this cant aside as being hollow, sublimely tendentious and utterly shameful to the idea of, or the aspiration to achieve, an educated mind. Wasn’t Doctor King’s most famous prayer that he hoped to see the day “when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character?”

Which led me to one of the original contrary articles, eventually published in Time, written by a Princeton undergrad (apparently) frustrated with the number of times he had been told to ‘check his privilege’.  I’m not sure that I buy into a bunch of his arguments.  As I’ve said previously, there is an aspect of some of the (US) contrary voices that focuses on portions of the American dream…work hard and be blessed.  I would also call that a post-Christian concept, as the work hard and be blessed dynamic is equally contrary to Christ’s teaching.  Not to say that hard work doesn’t sometimes result in benefits, but it ignores the reality for much of the world that a life of hard work generates little in the way of what Westerners would consider to be benefits.  Hard work is never a path to salvation, which is sometimes the trap of the American dream.

That said, it is interesting that the author, Tal Fortgang is the descendent of survivors of the Holocaust, an event which mainly involved the murder of millions of white Jews by white Germans.  Certainly another good example of ‘white privilege’ at work.

I can add to that example hundreds of others illustrating massive white on white violence – the Stalinist purges for one, estimated as involving the deaths of somewhere between  600,000 and 49 million (which we will never know).  Rex Murphy also highlights the reality that most of those who fought wars on behalf of the western allies were ‘poor’ white people.  The concept of ‘white privilege’ is suspect first from a rational perspective.

Apologist Ravi Zacharisas points out that the issue of racism is ageless, and is not solved by perpetuating racism against others:

…Right from the beginning of creation, hate and segregation came into the first family.  A brother hating his brother.  Why?  Because he seemed more sensitive to God.  Imagine that!  You see, hate and eviction come not just because of race.  They can come because of race or place or face or grace.  Racism is not just a white versus black issue.  We make a cardinal mistake pitting two colors against each other.  Go to Asia and see the regional hate and discrimination, the religious hate and discrimination, the social/economic hate and discrimination.  It is ultimately the passion that seeks to bring down somebody else and justifies its self-superiority by finding a reason to do just that.

This very week, an African American politician referred to Justice Clarence Thomas as an “Uncle Tom.”  When a news reporter questioned this characterization, his justification for using it was his race. I respectfully disagree.  Few abuses of the soul are more dangerous than those that legitimize hate by grabbing a twig of history and thinking they have grasped the root of revenge. You do not right a terrible wrong with an insatiable spirit of perpetuating vengeance.  So he was dead wrong…

The Christian perspective on the question is that all of us have fallen short of the grace of God – all of us.  That means not some more than others, not some less than others.  We (especially in the West) love to play the “I’m not as bad as X” game and thereby convince ourselves that we are righteous.

We do not resolve past injustices by creating new injustices, even if those injustices are argued for by the very people the injustice is focused on (why can’t a white proclaim their blood guild over ‘white privilege’?).  Racism and privilege is not resolved by creating new types of racism and privilege.  As Ravi Zacharias observes, stigma tends to defeat dogma – if you can shame people, you never have to engage their ideas.  In this case, it is a form of reverse shaming creating self-stigma, which then removes any need to engage the idea of real change.  Why agitate for change when you already feel so bad?

From a Christianity Today article:

That’s not an easy thing to grapple with, especially for students from privileged background. They’ve often benefited from unearned advantages, said Cleveland. Coming to grips with that can leave them angry and confused.

She recounted a story told by one of her colleagues, in a discussion about diversity. A white student asked, “Are we inherently sinful because we are white?”

“He said, ‘No, you are not sinful because you are white—but you have inherited a sin because you are white. The question is, ‘What are you going to do about it?’” said Cleveland.

The legacy of our families of origin can leave us with inherited sins that need to be actively addressed.  Events even several generations back can have lasting impact on us today.  However, that is much different than saying because you are white you have inherited a sin.

If that is good theology, why are we not speaking of black slavers having to repent of their inherited sin?  Or Hutu children having to repent of their parent’s sin of aiding a genocide?  Or Stalin’s daughter?  Or the entire race of Germanic people?  Or the children of Somali pirates?  Or the children of mob bosses?  Or (if you’re Anabaptist) the children of soldiers?  Or everyone descended from any of the many people recognized to have wrought great evil in their time?

The reason we don’t, is because this concept of sin, applied across an entire racial category, is not Christian.  That is, it does not fit in the framework established by the life of Christ.

And it is only a small step from that thought to thinking about vengeance paid unto the first and subsequent generations, a thoroughly Old Testament concept.

The fact that the person being interviewed moved so easily into a fundamentally contradictory statement (you’re not sinful because you’re white, but you’ve inherited sin because you’re white…so you’re not sinful, but you are?  Is that second or third degree sin?) is one of the things that causes me grave concern.  If you can’t be rationally consistent, you don’t have a hope of being theologically rigorous.

God’s reality: the sin of gossip (one we are almost all regularly guilty of) is equal to the sin of gluttony, which is equal to the sin of theft, which is equal to the sin of murder, which is equal to the sin of mass murder.  Sin and God are not in a transactional relationship with each other: you do not build good credits by virtue of good works, which in turn offset your sin black marks.  there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  The distance between God and the holiest human that has ever lived, and the distance between God and the evilest human that has ever lived is indistinguishable, so distant is God’s righteousness from our best efforts.  But…

…the accounting book and the weigh scale were both destroyed forevermore in the action of Christ upon the cross.

We constantly fall into the transactional trap, because we need to convince ourselves that we are good, by convincing ourselves that we are not as bad as someone else.  It appeals to our rational, logical mind because it makes so much sense (while that sense reflects only the wisdom of this world).  There’s a parable about that – the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18).  What the transactional trap really reflects is the old sin of pride.

‘White privilege’ falls into the transactional group, because it is about making ourselves feel bad, so we can be convinced we are good.  It is intended to obtain pity from onlookers, something that has replaced love and relationship in the post-modern context.

White privilege involves identifying that the sin of a particular racial group needs to be singled out, as a way of combating that sin.  That is utter foolishness, and could only happen in an era rightly identified as post-truth by Oxford.

You do not remove sin, by sinning to point it out.  The sin of racism (which is as present in the ‘white privilege’ movement as it is everywhere else) is not corrected by sinning against the entire race of white people.  But we love to convince ourselves we are good, because we feel so bad.

That Christians continue to argue this point is an illustration of how far away from the Gospels we have fallen.

Romans 3 (ESV):

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

[…and the part which continues to frustrate me particularly is the aggressive assertion that I don’t understand white privilege, coming to me exclusively from white people.  I will say this again: ‘white privilege’, whatever you think it may be, does absolutely nothing to restore right relationship between my people and yours.  I don’t want your ‘white privilege’ repeatedly brought forward as an example of how bad you feel about the past.

It’s important for me to say very clearly that I receive those assertions of ‘white privilege’ as an act of colonialism.

After some prayer, I’ve realized that the reason this affects me so viscerally is because it is activating big portions of my broken family history of racism, and impacting my own sense of indigenous identity.  The assertion of a right to ‘white privilege’ is the same old refrain I’ve heard throughout my people’s history, that included things like the use of white, Protestant troops to forcefully solve the Metis problem in Red River.

Advocate to change the Indian Act, demand your government right the land crimes committed against indigenous people by governments and citizens, and demonstrate that you are actually interested in a new relationship.  Those injustices are continuing to be perpetuated by Canadian governments this day (1,000s of examples – but there are still court cases like this going on if you can believe it.).  Until then, stop wasting my time with these assertions of ‘white privilege’.]


Written by sameo416

December 28, 2016 at 7:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Amen brother.


    December 29, 2016 at 8:56 am

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