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What To Do With Privilege

“Privilege.” It’s definitely become a hot topic in our society today.  Racially, some remind us of the unfairness of white privilege, for instance, and speak for how it needs to be recognized and corrected.  At the same time, others are offended, feeling like the implication is that if they are white they are inherently racist for allowing or not recognizing that privilege.

One summary of white privilege is that it is “both obvious and less obvious passive advantages that white people may not recognize they have, which distinguishes it from overt bias or prejudice. These include cultural affirmations of one’s own worth; presumed greater social status; and freedom to move, buy, work, play, and speak freely.”[1]
I will admit, I do know there are serious racial issues today, and I wish I had all the answers…. But I do know this: real change is going to have to happen at a much deeper heart level than just a movement for social change.  I believe the issues are actually much broader than just “white privilege” or racial issues.  We are an unfair, discriminatory society on many levels.  Even just staying with the iceberg-tip external level:
Did you know that if you have straighter, whiter teeth you are more likely to get a job?  In fact, one study showed that respondents saw those with straight teeth as 45 percent more likely to get a job than those with crooked teeth when compared with someone with a similar skill set and experience.[2] Actually, it’s not just your teeth, but Business Insider cites studies showing that “attractive people are usually hired sooner, get promotions more quickly, and are paid more than their less-attractive coworkers.”[3] And even if you’re not that great looking, did you know that just being tall can give you an advantage?  Apparently a person who is 6 feet tall is predicted to earn almost $166,000 more over the course of a 30-year career than someone 5 feet 5 inches tall.[4]
Maybe you have none of the above advantages.  Maybe you now feel even more underprivileged than before!  But if you look hard enough, I’d bet that you can find some way that you have an advantage over others that you did not ask for and cannot control. Is it fair?  Not really!  You may do a much better job than the person with straighter teeth. She may be a much better leader than the tall guy who got the promotion.  A white man shouldn’t be given more of the benefit of the doubt than a person of color. BUT, it happens. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t speak against injustices.  We should. But I’d also dare to say this: we will never fully eliminate unfair privilege from society.  In one form or another, it will rise up.
The question is then, what do we do about our “privilege?”  Run from it? Be ashamed of it?  Well, I’d actually propose the following:
Run with it.
Utilize that privilege to the fullest.
Milk it for all it’s worth.
Now before you stone me, hear me out!  None of this is to be in a self-advantaging context.  In Matthew 25, Jesus tells a parable about servants who were given varying numbers of “talents.”  Was it fair?  It may not seem so.  But what WAS fair, is that the Master expected a return based on what they’d been given: The one with five talents got five more, the one with three talents got three more, and the guy who only got one talent was chastised for not at least doing something with that one.
The point is this: Privilege = accountability.
I do realize that unfair social privilege is not the same as God-given talent endowment.   But think of it this way: If you have certain “privileges” for being white, could you be using them to help others?  Or if you experience certain privileges because you’re black (yes, I do believe a few of those exist too), what are you doing with them?  If you’re in a higher social class, guess what? You’ll have have opportunities others will not. How have you used them?  If you’re tall and that happens to make people more likely to follow you, then you better develop yourself and lead for all your worth.  If you’re beautiful and it makes people listen to you more readily, make sure you’re saying something worthwhile!
Whether that privilege is fair or not, whether you had any control over it or not, or whether you like it or not, you’re accountable for what you do with it – or what you neglect to do.  And guess what, if you know Jesus, you have the biggest privilege of all.
Again, this may sound like I’m trying to minimize the racial issues our society faces.  That’s not my intent.  It may seem like I deem unfair privilege as acceptable.  I’m not saying that.  But what I am saying is this: If you’ve got it, use it. In fact, I think you MUST use it.  Small or large.  Whether you see yourself as somewhat privileged or somewhat underprivileged.  You have something.
Run with it – to help those around you.
Utilize it – for the glory of God.
Milk it – to extend a hand to those without the privileges you enjoy.
All real societal change has to start with individual heart change.  So take what you have, and use it for others.  For your world.  For the Lord. And if we truly do this, I wonder what might happen.
————-
[1] “White privilege.” Wikipedia. Accessed May 9, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_privilege
[2] “People with straight teeth considered happier, healthier and smarter.” Dental Tribune International. April 23, 2012. http://www.dental-tribune.com/articles/news/usa/8133_people_with_straight_teeth_considered_happier_healthier_and_smarter_.html
[3] Stanger, Melissa. “Attractive People Are Simply More Successful.” Business Insider. Oct. 9, 2012. http://www.businessinsider.com/attractive-people-are-more-successful-2012-9
[4] Lebowitz, Shana. “Science says being tall could make you richer and more successful — here’s why. ”Business Insider. Sept. 9, 2015. http://www.businessinsider.com/tall-people-are-richer-and-successful-2015-9

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The Haystack is awesome. Nuff said.

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