This post is part of the June 2012 Synchroblog on the topic “What’s in Your Invisible Knapsack?” Yes, I know… that’s a strange topic/title. But, when you hear what it means, I hope you understand why I was interested in writing for this synchroblog.
(By the way, if you want to take part also, it’s not too late. You can find the details in the post “June Synchroblog – What’s In Your Invisible Knapsack?“)
The purpose of this synchroblog, is to consider who you are and what privileges you may or may not have in society based on who you are. Here is a longer description:
Whether it is white privilege, heterosexual privilege, male privilege, Christian privilege, able-bodied privilege or any other privilege that we enjoy through no effort of our own, we all have a tendency to be blind to our own position of privilege. We easily recognize the privilege in groups that we don’t belong to and ways in which we ourselves are oppressed, but we don’t tend to recognize our own unearned privilege that saves us from facing certain obstacles, gives us certain guarantees and benefits, and works to the disadvantage and oppression of others. We like to think that our success is something that we have worked for and earned when things may have turned out much differently if we were born with a disability or in a different place, if we were a different race, a different sex or of a different sexual orientation…
Here are some questions to get your creative juices flowing:
Do we take our unearned privileges for granted? How does unearned privileges hurt/harm others? Should we try to dismantle systems built upon unearned privileges? If so, what are some practical solutions to dismantling such systems? Are unearned privileges an obstacle to us putting other people’s interest above our own? Is our position of privilege impairing our ability to love others? How does unearned privilege impact educational systems, faith communities, neighborhoods, work places?
To me, my primary identity is as a child of God. However, I must also admit for most of the people who meet me, they will not identify me primarily as a child of God. Instead, they will identify me through various societal identifiers. And, some of those identifiers will reflect various types of “privilege” as listed above.
For example, I’m male. I’m caucasian. I’m married. I’m a parent. I’m employed. I’m educated. I’m a homeowner.
In many circles (societies), these markers do provide certain kinds of privilege. The society that I live among in North Carolina, USA does recognize these attributes as types of privilege. When I interact with people in this particular culture, they will begin to identify me (even before they know me) by these positive markers (because they generally view these things in a positive light).
In other societies (in even among some subcultures in North Carolina, USA), these same characteristics are not seen positively, but are seen negatively. When people in those societies (or subcultures) first begin to identify me (even before they know me), by these negative markers (because they generally view these things in a negative light).
In many ways, in order to rightly relate to other people, it’s important to both understand how others identify you (by those markers or characteristics or privileges) and also what those markers mean within those societies. At times, it may be necessary to work to demonstrate that you are not the same as they may think (based on those markers).
Of course, Paul said this better than I could ever say it:
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ESV)
While Paul wrote this in the context of proclaiming the gospel to unbelievers, it is just as applicable in the context of discipling and fellowshiping with other believers. The one who is “free from all” in Christ both recognizes the privileges offered to him/her by society and also gladly gives up those rights for the benefit of others.
This is life walking in the Spirit. This is following Jesus Christ, who is the epitome of giving up his rights for the benefit of others.
June 2012 Synchroblog “What’s in Your Invisible Knapsack?”
Here is a list of bloggers taking part in this synchroblog:
Rebecca Trotter at The Upside Down World – The Real Reason the Term “White Privilege” Needs to Die
Carol Kuniholm at Words Half Heard – What Do You Have That You Didn’t Receive
Glenn Hager at Glenn Hager – Unjust Justice
K.W. Leslie at More Christ – Sharing From The Invisible Knapsack
Jeremy Myers at Till He Comes – My Black Privilege
Alan Knox at The Assembling Of the Church – Knowing Who You Are and How Others Identify You
Leah Sophia at desert spirit’s fire – backpack cargo
Liz Dyer at Grace Rules – Christian Privilege