Exploring white privilege: Guest Posting at Irresistibly Fish

Brett Fish has some great conversations about white privilege happening over at his blog, you should definitely check it out! One of the big things that is coming out of my research is that a key catalyst for helping white people in South Africa move from a position of apathy (or an inability to even “see” racial privilege) to being active about racial justice is other white people who challenged them to start thinking differently. Which is why what Brett is doing is awesome. So if you’re curious, skeptical, or if you are already passionate about racial justice and want to learn more, head over! (Recently on Irresistibly Fish, Nkosi shared some of his views on what white people can do to help make South Africa a more just society, sparking a great conversation. And oh, one of them was pay your domestic helper a living wage… that sound’s familiar? :D) 

As a lot of the white privilege literature and conversation comes from an American context, I shared a few ramblings about what I have noticed in the South African context– the biggest thing being our perception of loss can blind us as white people to the privilege that still exists for us in this country… but that doesn’t change the fact that we are privileged. Here’s the start,

I’m a target of crime. I have to leave the country in order to find work.  I do not have leaders in government who are my race. When I’m stopped by a cop, they most likely do not look like me. I’m not privileged, I’m a victim.” 

These are some of the sentiments that I’ve heard (explicitly or implicitly) and read as I’ve talked with people about the topic of my master’s research, which includes issues of white privilege. Peggy McIntosh wrote an article called “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” where she lists all the unrecognized benefits she has as a white person living in America. At first glance, it’s hard to tell if these benefits come from a history (and present reality) that systematically privileges white people, or if they come from being part of a racial numerical majority. (I mean, obviously she’d be able to find band-aids that match her skin colour, if the majority of people buying band-aids have white skin).

To read the rest of this article, head on over

Privilege

A little boy who lives across from where we have our Saturday Kids Club.

A little boy who lives across from where we have our Saturday Kids Club.

Living in Hilton and working in Sweetwaters means I am constantly confronted with my own privilege. It’s not just a matter of working in schools that are understaffed, under-resourced, and under-qualified, when I know I went to amazing schools just minutes away in Hilton. It’s not just a matter of sitting at Life Groups in the back yards of houses that have no running water, or flush toilets.

Sometimes I feel guilty for living in a fully furnished flat in Hilton, rent free, with a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and living room. I feel guilty that I have a car (that I didn’t pay for, but someone donated for whoever has my job). My coworkers don’t have cars. My co-workers don’t live in Hilton.

Who knows. Maybe next year David and I will move to Sweetwaters. But right now we’re in Hilton. We think that’s where God wants us to be. Especially for David’s first year of teaching, the stress of living in a 100% Zulu environment, and having to boil our own water to heat it would probably not be the best. But God is showing me I don’t have to feel guilty about the things that he has let me use. I feel guilty when I think about how much stuff I have– but when I think about it as God’s stuff, there’s no reason to feel guilty. It’s his. He can do with it as he wishes.

Last week, my coworker, who stays in Sweetwaters, called to say they didn’t have water. I invited them over for supper and a shower, and to fill up their 10 gallon water-jug. When they got to our flat, I found out they hadn’t had water for 5 days. They were just “bothering” us now, because their 10 gallon water jug had just run out that day. Because we were friends, my coworker was able to get water.

Last week, someone else phoned because his pregnant wife was having trouble, and they needed to get to the hospital. We lent him the car for the day, so he could take her to the hospital and to a follow up clinic appointment. Because he knew us, he was able to get his wife to the hospital.

Today, we were packing for our teens camp, and we needed old plastic bags and newspapers for a game. I was the one who went to dig them out of the recycling bin in our town, because my white face meant no one would bother me and ask what I was doing.

Being white.

Having a car.

Having in-door running water and a shower.

I can feel guilty about all of it. Or, I can see it as a resource that God has given me, and wants me to use to bless others. How are you using the resources God has given you?

Pray this week for teens camp! We are taking 50 teens to the beach for 3 days. Pray for good weather, great speaker, and that the teens would bond with their leaders.