We live in a society that has been oppressively controlled and dominated by white people for about 400 years. To put it bluntly and succinctly, a society dominated by white control can’t be fixed by white people taking control of the situation. The failure in the white privilege stewardship model, is that it inherently affirms and utilizes the very thing that it is called to resist and counter. If the answer to our racial problems is that white people must run things, call the shots, and be the saviors to the world, then we have missed the mark.
Drew Hart, “Beyond A White Privilege Model” (The Christian Century, September 9, 2014)
We end this week with a cross-post from The Christian Century, where Drew Hart tackles the issue of white privilege. This is a vital & urgent issue in a nation where people of color continue to be killed & incarcerated at astronomical rates and discrimination continues to widen the racial gap in regards to education, income, jobs, health care, housing, transportation &, most embarrassing of all perhaps, water. Below, we have posted his three suggestions that come at the conclusion of his article. We encourage all readers to click on and carefully read the entirety of Drew’s piece here (artwork, above, by Ricardo Levins Morales).
1. Since Jesus refused to lord over others, but chose to be a servant to all, the Church must follow that lead. White Christians must renounce any desires to dominate and control everything. Whether it is the death-dealing control that seeks homogeneity and superiority, or it is the good intention filled stewardship of white privilege. Within the Church some folks might need to do the truly hard work of demoting themselves, turning down decision-making opportunities, and refusing to accommodate majority white strongholds around the table of power-brokers. It requires a boldness to agitate the powers that be in the Church towards the embodiment of Galatians 3:28. The clash and confrontation that flows out of following Jesus, makes taking up the cross visible and concrete when we risk our own well being more and more, prophetically calling the church to be the called out ones. This of course, also applies to every area of our lives, not just within the life of the Christian community, as we move in society as disciples of Christ working towards justice and shalom.
2. Since Jesus’ Kingdom centralized those who have been marginalized and oppressed, the Church must follow that lead. Christians from dominant culture can no longer follow the lead of mainstream and popular Christianity. Instead, they must find Jesus among the least of these, and follow after him. Dominant culture’s portrayal of Jesus will always be domesticated, sometimes looking like Uncle Sam, a good citizen, or often just a glimpse of the person we see in the mirror every day. The Americanized and assimilated Jesus must be rejected for the Jesus that brought good news to the poor and came to liberate the oppressed. This will only be found by dropping everything, and immediately following Jesus into solidarity with the oppressed. That is, our lives must no longer be aligned with the white hegemonic social order, and must be grounded among the most vulnerable of society, including those that have been historically oppressed by race, class, or gender in America. Jesus’ reign is made visible when the oppressed are privileged at the table of Christ, and where oppressors have repented of their way of life and joined in Christ’s vulnerability in a world that can’t recognize him. It is a new solidarity of being with ‘the little ones’ and allowing them to help reteach what it means to be made in the image of God.
3. Since Jesus was the liberator of the oppressed, the Church must be liberated itself, so that it can be free to love our neighbors through liberative action and nonviolent struggle that reflects the life-giving impulse of God’s people. This liberated community cannot be achieved through our own productivity and hard work. Liberation and Shalom are divine interventions that come through yieldedness to the Spirit, and through the risk of participating in God’s reign. Once free from the social construction of whiteness as a way of being (in belief and practice) the Church, and as a bondage, we are able to truly resist the forces of this world that oppose the coming New Creation that God has in store for us. No longer conformed to the racialized patterns of America, the Church can be a blessing to the place in which it resides and beyond. The church can struggle against police brutality, the school to prison pipeline and mass incarceration, patriarchy and sexism, economically deprived communities and the lack of access to livable conditions and wages. Certainly, part of our liberation must also come from intentionally renewing our minds, but we must be committed to seek after a thorough and comprehensive liberation that touches every area of our lives and habits. The anti-black ideology, rhetoric, and practices of our society is the enemy of the liberated and liberative Church that pursues wholeness and shalom locally and globally.