Trump, Pence, and Privilege

 

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Image courtesy of Chicago Theological Seminary Facebook Page.

I am a white Christian seminary student and I recognize that a society that privileges me just because I am white is a dangerous and sinful society.

White privilege is getting often unearned benefits from society. It is sinful when it harms people of color and contributes to their deaths.

The often lethal opposite of white privilege is racism, which sees non-whites as dangerous. Traci Blackmon, a leader in my denomination, said, “It is impossible to be unarmed when my blackness is the weapon you fear.”

Donald Trump and Mike Pence are among the most privileged people in America: white, upper-class men. Even after the institutionalized killing of two more African American men this week, they remain blind to their own privilege and its consequences.

It’s been said, “If you don’t think racism exists, you’re white.” Trump and Pence operate from a false paradigm that ignoring institutional racism will make it disappear.

Trump touts “a great relationship with the blacks,” yet claims, “laziness is a trait in blacks.”

After the police killings of Terrance Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott, Pence argued, “We ought to set aside this talk, this talk about institutional racism and institutional bias.”

When Pharisees missed the point, Jesus responded, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matt. 15:14)

That pit is the pit of sinfulness, the rebellion against God’s command that humankind love one another. (John 13:34)

On issues of race and privilege, Pence and Trump are as blind as the Pharisees Jesus criticized. Yet, as a person of faith, I cannot “let them alone.” I must examine these issues through the lens of my theological commitments to love God and neighbor. (Matt 22:39)

Unchallenged white privilege is dangerous.

Mothers of African American boys understand this. They face harsh realities whenever their children leave home. As the wife of a biracial husband and mother of biracial sons, I have similar concerns.

Author Marilynn Robinson wrote that “harmony in diversity” creates a nonjudgmental space allowing people to “live together in peace and mutual respect.” As a white woman, I cannot know what it means to be black in America. I do know that my first responsibility is to listen.

My second responsibility is to do something.

As Paul said, “Bear one another’s burdens and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2)

Alice Hunt, president of Chicago Theological Seminary, wrote, “As people of faith, we must love enough to get angry at great injustice and call it out.” Love is listening to understand; it is calling for justice.

As a seminary student and follower of Jesus, I take very seriously the dual responsibilities of listening to those whose lives are at risk because their skin color is considered dangerous and calling out the blindness to privilege that is getting African Americans killed with impunity.

Listen, learn, and challenge racist society.

To me, that’s following Jesus.

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7 thoughts on “Trump, Pence, and Privilege

  1. Most notable: “‘Author Marilynn Robinson wrote that ‘harmony in diversity’ creates a nonjudgmental space allowing people to “live together in peace and mutual respect.’ As a white woman, I cannot know what it means to be black in America. I do know that my first responsibility is to listen.” To be shared with those who, up to this point have not listened.” Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jessica,
    Thank you for pressing this very important issue. I don’t want to be cynical, but I worry that the situation is even worse than your suggestion that “Trump and Pence operate from a false paradigm that ignoring institutional racism will make it disappear.” I don’t think they actually want it to disappear. Michelle Alexander makes a clear case in The New Jim Crow that our criminal justice system does not perpetuate a racial caste system by accident. Instead, it is a deliberate instrument of social control. I suspect that Trump and Pence and others like them actually hope that ignoring institutional racism will make it stay. It’s a great help to maintaining the status quo in which they flourish.
    Keep fighting the good fight. Deborah

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Deborah, I appreciate the input. Alexander’s book has been on my reading list for some time and you’re the third person to mention it to me in the past week. I think when I referred to their paradigm, I was thinking in terms of how they are handling it for campaigning/election means–it would be easier for them if the problem just went away. Of course, when we say “problem,” we have to define what that is. Is it the inconvenient truth of systemic racism and white privilege or is the problem much more sinister than that (i.e. Do they “hope that ignoring institutional racism will make it stay?”)? Like you, I hate to be too cynical, yet I do wonder about the motives of powerful white men as racist as they clearly are.

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  3. As an agnostic raised in and thus heavily influenced by the American Baptist tradition, I am right beside you. “Love is listening to understand; it is calling for justice.” captures well one of my own foundational beliefs.

    Liked by 1 person

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