The Reality of Privilege

Rachel and I were having a discussion with a friend the other day about the idea of “privilege” and if it really exists. He said that on initial assessment of the idea it is really offensive, especially for those of us who grew up in poverty equal to that of many minorities. He also said that looking through that coloring of our own upbringing, we can see that privilege is not an economic problem, but one of social and cultural skewing against specific groups of people based on how society has been established. That’s a big idea and I wonder if it is even something we can understand tangibly if we don’t experience it. I also wonder if it’s something we just assume to be true because we experience hardship in our lives that is common amongst the human experience.

At times in my life I have been a believer and a denier of privilege, but in the past 10 years or so, I no longer believe that it’s something that can be denied. My belief in the pervasiveness of privilege began when Rachel and I began training to be foster and adoptive parents. The terrible stories of what kids had to experience, and the heartbreaking stories of their parents would rend anyone’s heart; but I learned about privilege when I was told that the waiting list for white kids was 10 times longer than for black kids, and 20 times longer than for mixed kids. Let that sink in for a minute: people would not want a child because of the color of their skin. Disgusting. If it was me I wouldn’t let people adopt who felt that way because they are missing the point! After having the pure joy of adopting a child of mixed race, I have noticed more and more areas of privilege in this world, and I am not ok with it, not for my son or any one else’s.

Privilege exists when those not in “power” are treated differently, with negative connotations, than those who are the dominant culture. It is because of our sinfulness and blindness that we don’t recognize it. Privilege exists in all sorts of organizations: from government to the Church, and it is always wrong. Privilege mutes the full voice of God’s people because it elevates ones group over another in direct contrast to God’s design.

Galatians 3:28 says that in Christ there are no longer racial, gender, or societal distinctions. Those of us in Christ are all equal. How is it that His people can be those who deny and refuse to see privilege and discrimination in our society? How can we not lead the charge against it? Too often we love our sinful distinctions of people over the truth of God’s word. Remember this, the adoption agency we worked with, the one where black and mixed children were not wanted at the same rate as white babies, was a Christian agency. It was primarily Christians who wanted to deny non-whites a loving home because of their color. I don’t think most people do this maliciously, but our vision is skewed by the privilege we view life through. I pray we begin to see the reality of the world, and respond like Jesus.

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