As a White American Christian, my level of privilege places me in a bubble where it is easy to get along. And how do I get along so well in this world while others suffer? The easy answer has always been “I am lucky”. And while that may be true in a sense, it doesn’t do the question any justice.
Let’s examine these three labels, these three privileges, individually.
I was raised without an awareness of color. This is privilege. I never had to face the idea that the color of my skin could be a limiting factor for me. I never had to even think about the idea that my race could keep me from certain kinds of employment or certain educational opportunities. I never had to consider how my actions would reflect on my race, or how they would be viewed in light of my race. But, even more than that, I wasn’t given a racial identity at all. While it is all privilege, it is also, in some ways, a poverty I will never climb out of.
I was raised in a country where anything was possible for me. All over the world, people live in nations that are either not as free, or not nearly as wealthy, as America. More than that, America was actually designed to reward those who wish to climb to higher rungs of wealth and privilege. I was taught that I could achieve anything in America, and I still believe that I was taught correctly. This is privilege. I have citizenship in a country where freedom is guaranteed by a strong constitution and backed up by a powerful military and a well-armed citizenry. This too is privilege. But a Constitution, even a great one, is not an identity unless we consider the sacrifice and struggle that brought it about. And my American identity is not American without at least acknowledging the sacrifices of the unwilling… the African slave and the Native American, as well as that of the willing soldiers who paid with their blood.
I never need to concern myself with how I am perceived or what my legacy will be, I only play for an audience of One. I don’t have to wonder what comes after death. Death has been defeated. I don’t need to find a perfect leader. I already have one in Jesus. That Jesus Christ, God incarnate, would lay down His life for me, is privilege. The greatest privilege I have is the one offered to all, yet chosen by so few. Ironically it is the privilege that requires me to lay down my other privileges. I have a Father in heaven, a creator who loves me and I have a citizenship in a Kingdom that is greater than any other. There are so many who have never been given this opportunity. This is the one identity, the one privilege, that is without flaw.
Awareness is liberation as long as we do not allow it to completely consume us. Knowing who we are, and how we got to where we are, can help us navigate the waters around us as we set sail toward the future. It can tell us much about that future, and it can help to shape who we will become in it.
Yes, I am privileged, and it is tempting to treat that privilege with disdain, as there are so many who lack these privileges. But that would be a waste. I was born where I was born, as a white male. And I was afforded very early on the opportunity to choose Jesus. And since His Kingdom is available for all immigrants, I can extend this privilege to all. Can you think of a better thing to live for?