On White Privilege
“White privilege is an absence of the consequences of racism. An absence of structural discrimination, an absence of your race being viewed as a problem first and foremost.” – Reni Eddo-Lodge
Let’s talk about white privilege. White privilege is, much like systemic racism, a bit of a nebulous term and one that is thrown about quite a bit these days. The basic idea is that being born a white person in Western society immediately grants you certain privileges just by virtue of being white. Put another way, your life at least isn’t made any harder because of your skin colour.
Like other things I have said about racism, the idea of white privilege is nuanced. I reject the oversimplification of white privilege but recognize that it still exists as a reality. Let me explain.
White privilege is undoubtedly real to a certain degree. For instance, the city I live in is predominantly white. To my recollection, I’ve never had a racist act committed against me in my life. This, however, is not true for some of my friends who are black or asian. Thus, I think it is fair to say that my skin colour affords me some degree of privilege. Of this I readily acknowledge.
However, that’s about all I’m willing to concede about white privilege. Much of the additional baggage that comes with the term I reject, and on good moral and logical grounds I might add.
I reject the idea that I should apologize for being white. The trend of white people bowing down before blacks and making atonement for the sins of their ancestors is insanity. Not that being humble and willing to admit our faults is anything bad—in fact, it is necessary in a Christian worldview. The problem however is that there is no need to repent for the sins of others. It is fundamental to a Christian worldview that people are accountable for themselves, and that God will judge each person according to their works. I honestly don’t know if anyone in my own family lineage has a link to slavery. Well, actually, I’m willing to bet that if we go back far enough, all of us have a heritage connected with slavery and other horrible atrocities that we want nothing to do with.
It seems like white privilege is the new “original sin” in this secular religion of wokeness. From a Christian point of view, you are born with an inherent guilt (sin) that you need cleansing from through faith in Christ. In the secular view, you are born with inherent guilt (whiteness) for which you need to be cleansed through wokeness. This is a false gospel and antithetical to the Christian worldview.
I would add one more thing here. If a person feels uncomfortable with the actions that someone else has committed, the biblical response is not to confess guilt yourself, but rather to pray for them. We call this intercessory prayer. An example of this in Scripture is Job, who prayed for his children and offered sacrifices to God on their behalf for their partying lifestyle (Job 1). It’s not that Job felt responsible, but he pleaded with God on their behalf out of love.
I reject the idea that white privilege (or lack thereof) is the best way to understand people’s situations. Like I mentioned already, white privilege is real. Yet it is only one component to the complexity that makes up a person’s life circumstances. Many, many, many other factors will lend a person towards privilege or not, such as:
- Country of birth
- Family wealth
- Educational opportunities
- Character of their parents
- Personal connections
- What they were exposed to as a child
The list goes on. All of these factor into the equation of a person’s access to privilege. I would argue that perhaps some of these factors are actually far more important to the outcome of life for an individual than the colour of their skin.
In other words, white privilege is real, but it is not nearly sufficient to explain the world around us.
Who has more privilege? Me, as a white man? Or Tiger Woods? LeBron James? Barack Obama? Oprah Winfrey? They have access to resources that far outweigh anything I might be able to accrue because of my whiteness. And you know what? Good for them! That’s fine with me, because I’m not a victim. I’ve been dealt the hand God gave me, and I will not covet the one he gave someone else. Every person has a unique set of circumstances they are born into, some of which are advantageous, and others disadvantageous. It has always been, in my mind, a healthy perspective for someone to not allow themselves to be controlled by their circumstances, but resolve to work with what they have to live a worthy life for God and others.
Lastly, I reject the idea that my privilege, whatever level it may be, is inherently bad. Terms matter, and what the world calls privilege the Bible calls blessings. This absolutely, positively, does not mean that being white is a blessing. That’s a disgusting way to think. But what it means is that in whatever way God has granted me a smooth path in life, for it I am grateful.
I can for certain say that by far the most meaningful way God has blessed me is with incredible, hard working parents who taught me about God. This is a privilege that not all others have had, and I wish it were different. Yet I will give thanks for the blessings God has given me, and the challenges, while aiming to use the resources God has given me to make something of my life. This is what privilege is all about. If you have something to be thankful for, give thanks. If you have plentiful resources, give back. If you have challenges to overcome, persevere. But using white privilege as the dominant way to understand the world is a line of thinking that is based on coveting, ingratitude, and just plain ignorance of the facts. Reality is always much more complex than any broad-brush can cover.
Let me circle back to the quote at the beginning. It said “White privilege is an absence of the consequences of racism. An absence of structural discrimination, an absence of your race being viewed as a problem first and foremost.” It appears we are just turning the tables around. White people are now structurally discriminated against, because we are seen as inherently racist whether we recognize it or not. On top of that, our whiteness is seen as a problem first and foremost. There is a term for it when people are categorized wholesale simply because of their skin colour: it’s called racism. The inevitable outcome of the white privilege narrative is just racism in a new form. We are simply replacing one racist ideology with another.
I propose that we submit ourselves to Scripture. God’s Word cuts through all the clutter and makes things clear. We are to do unto others as we would want them to do to us. It’s really that simple. We get into problems when we start to create new categories and put people into boxes. All of this springs from the concept of equity, the idea that all people deserve equal outcomes, a line of thinking born in Marxism and adopted by popular thought. That will be the topic of my next post.