Maybe you’re already cringing at the headline of this article. Maybe for more than one reason. That’s okay. This is an important topic to delve into, because I believe that it holds a key for solving racism and personal issues.
Privilege gets thrown around a lot these days. While I have feelings and opinions about its usage, I’m going to try to refrain from expressing those in this article. This is not a debate about whether privilege exists or what its effects may be on various people.
The definition of “privilege”, as commonly used in racial, gender, and other such discussions, is essentially: things that you have no control over that give you an advantage over others. If you’re white, that’s considered a privilege. If you’re male, that’s considered a privilege. Being raised in a two-parent home, not having had money problems, being “straight” (i.e. not gay or other LGBTQIA+ orientation), and numerous other things contribute to your privilegedness.
A privileged guy?
If people were to examine me, they would probably conclude that I have lots of privilege: a straight white male, no debt, two-parent home, a good job, living on my own… I’m grateful for these things, but I also realize that there are many people who are different than me.
At the same time, there are many things that don’t necessarily show up at first glance. I spent years living in poverty. I was emotionally, spiritually, and sometimes physically abused for years. I didn’t find the emotional independence to leave my parents’ home until I was 29. Despite being 31, there are areas where my maturity and experience levels are more on the level of a teenager’s. Maybe worse. Am I working on these things? Sure. But maturity doesn’t happen overnight. You might read my blog and think that I sound pretty mature. Great. But when I was 7, I held intelligent conversations with adults, and someone joked that I was “7 going on 15”.
So when people use the term “privilege”, it’s easy for me to feel defensive. It’s easy to feel that they are writing me off because I’m a straight while male and I “just don’t understand”.
But I also struggle with feeling ashamed of my privilege.
Dropping the shame
Maybe you feel the same way. So I have something that we all need to hear:
It’s totally okay to have privilege.
There’s nothing wrong with being privileged.
Remember, privilege is about things which you had no control over. You had no control of your skin color, parental situation, birth order, parental income level, access to college, intelligence level, or biological gender.
If you can’t change it, then there’s no need to feel ashamed about it.
And, just as importantly: don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed about it.
Recognize your privileges. Remember that those from different settings may have had difference or fewer opportunities than you. Show compassion and understanding to them, and don’t condemn them for things they had no control over.
But don’t feel ashamed or condemned about things that you had no control over.
Bringing unity through acceptance
Over the last several years, I have read and heard the voices of various people of color. I’ve realized that there are many people who have experienced things that I had no idea were still a problem in America. At least not to the extent that they actually exist. (The links that I posted are just the beginning!)
I deeply desire to see these problems resolved. Especially in the church. The idea of some of God’s children treating other children of God with contempt because of their skin color makes my blood boil.
There is one thing that I believe is important in all of this, though. The only way to actually come to unity is if we build each other up, not tear one another down. Shaming people because of their privilege will only further the racial and relational divides. Shame causes people to react in one of two ways: either they collapse under the shame and grovel like a whipped puppy, or they put up walls of defense against what they perceive as a source of shame. Neither is healthy or helpful.
So I believe that it’s time to kick the shame to the curb. Let’s walk as the children of the King of Kings, accepting the way He made us. And let’s treat one another with love and respect, regardless of where we or others fall on the “privilege” spectrum.
Because if you can’t change it, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Don’t misuse this article
There’s one more thing that makes my blood boil as well. I know that some people will read this article and like it. Maybe even share it around on social media.
But they miss the whole point of the article.
So hear me, and hear me loud and clear: if you’re one of those people who think that racism is just a concoction of the media and the Black Lives Matter movement, please don’t use this post as weapon in your arsenal. You’re only serving your ego and confirmation bias.
If you’re going to try to use this article to bludgeon people of color into accepting your privilege, please go away. Please shut up and get your heart right before God. Because that’s NOT what this article is about at all.
This article has one main point, and you already read it:
It’s totally okay to be a privileged white male.
Just use that privilege to help, bless, and benefit others.