How to Use White Privilege to Combat Injustice

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If you’re white, have you ever wished you were born into a different ethnicity because being white is so boring? I have. I remember wistfully wishing I could be a part of some ethnicity that had great food, music and dancing.

It’s taken a while to come to terms with my ‘whiteness.’ My friends of color have helped me with it. They lovingly said, “Oh, you don’t think you have a culture? You do, let me tell you how your culture oppresses me.”

So I decided to learn about my culture, reading books like: Being White: Finding Our Place in a Multiethnic World by Paula Harris and Doug Schaupp, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: and Other Conversations About Race, by Beverly Daniel Tatum and, Privilege and Prejudice: Twenty Years with the Invisible Knapsack by Karen Weekes

I learned that I do have a culture, that if you put twenty white people in a room and have them brainstorm the sayings and proverbs they grew up with, they’d have similar ones. “A penny saved is a penny earned,” “You can be anything you want to be,” and “Work hard, play hard.” These sayings capture the independence, thrift and work ethic of our white culture.

I also learned that we have a history of using our power, access and privilege to oppress others. I did not personally hold slaves, detain the Japanese, or take away Native lands, yet I benefit from the unjust systems that my white forefathers created. I was born on a moving sidewalk just by being white. (Tweet this) It’s moving toward power, privilege, access, education and resources.

So, what can I do? I can celebrate my ethnic heritage! God says in Psalm 139 that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And, I can eat a lot of dessert. You got to admit, although most of our main courses are pretty vanilla (pun intended), white folks are good at desserts! Also, I can try to use my power, privilege, access and resources to break down systemic injustice. (Tweet this)

Someone asked me why I wrote so many non-majority characters in my Birthright Series. I’m trying to show that when we all come to the table with our various gifts we can work together to change the world.

Which brings me to my latest book, Cracker: Cracker is about an upside-down world where whites are an oppressed minority and blacks have power and privilege. My hope is to help my white brothers and sisters learn what I am learning, that our friends of color live daily with prejudice, micro-agression and systemic injustice. But I do it through a great story about a girl named Ann, who has to find her own voice and learn to take a stand.

What do you think about white power and privilege? Every culture has it’s own kind of power and privilege. What ways do you find to use your power and privilege to help change the world?

 

Thin Places: Where Heaven and Earth Intersect

Coastal Redwoods, California

I don’t think of heaven as a place far away, with harp playing angles on fluffy white clouds. Nope. Heaven to me is another dimension, just out of sight, a hairsbreadth away and occasionally, it breaks through: through us, through nature, through worship, and through hard places where people feel in desperate need.

These places are called call THIN places. Places where the presence of heaven is THICK; where you can feel God. I often feel it in old churches and retreat centers where decades of prayer has saturated the walls with peace. But, those aren’t the only places.

The first time I noticed such a place, outside of church, was at a Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meeting I was asked to attend for a class. I shouldn’t have been surprised that God was so THICK in that room Jesus was always present to the desperate. He always answered the requests of those who knew their need. I had the urge to take off my shoes in that NA meeting. It felt like holy ground.

I had the same urge standing in the old growth redwoods near Santa Cruz. It was unearthly quiet under those giant sentinels. The years-deep pine needle carpet make it a hushed place. My neck ached as I tried to see the top of the trees that were growing before heaven came to earth that first time. It was like standing in a cathedral…holy. My feet wanted out of my shoes.

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Lately, I’ve found thin places while sitting with my friends from the LGBTQ community. I find them when I hear of their faith despite fifty years of being told that God couldn’t love them. I hear of their self-hatred and trying desperately to pray away their very selves until they realized that kind of praying didn’t work. When these friends trust me enough to be honest about how hard it is to trust me, it feels THICK. It’s a THIN place. My toes long for freedom.

I see thin places when I sit with parents whose children have told them, through their tears, how they have denied their true identities to the point of longing for death. I have seen the hearts of broken parents, not knowing what to do, but desperately wanting to do right by their children.  We hold hands and cry over churches that won’t let their kids in; or parents who are pastors and choosing to stand with their gay children means possibly losing their job. It feels THIN. It feels THICK. God is very real in those conversations.

So if you see me sitting in a Starbucks, barefoot and handing a Kleenex to a friend, pray for me: Pray I will listen well. That I will love well. That I will hold the space for God to be with us. Because he wants to heal the desperately hurting. He always has. He always will.

Where have you felt the THIN places of God?

Photo Credit Kit

Blooming in the Desert: How to encourage a friend experiencing a life drought

desert bloom

My husband and I hike in the Nevada high desert most mornings. Recently, I noticed that despite our current drought, it’s been green and full of wild flowers. Our Nevada green is not like the green of the Pacific Northwest, where I had the pleasure of hiking last week and the green was so bright my eyes ached. Our green is not even like the green of California — that is in such a severe drought they might have only one year left of water, but the hills still look beautiful there. Nope, not that kind of “show off” green that comes in countless shades, but still, green…for us.

I reflected, as we walked and admired the strange variety of blooms, that “It doesn’t take much water to encourage the desert to bloom.” It was true; we’d had only two real storms this winter. Usually, rain in Northern Nevada means it briefly muddies your car. But, these two times it actually rained, and the desert blossomed.

As we walked, I reflected that it was similar to being spiritually dry or when your life is in a hard, desert place. It takes very little encouragement, during those times, to make a difference.

In the times I’ve been in those places it was the small encouragements that kept me going. Encouragements I call, “Glimpses of God,” like a quick “thinking of you” text from a friend, a phone call, an unexpected card in the mail, or a rainbow.

When those we love are suffering, sometimes it is hard to know what to say, so we say nothing.  But, it takes very little encouragement when you are in a desert place, to bloom. (Tweet this)  So stop for a minute and think about your friends. Are any of them going through a particularly hard time? If so, is there something small you can do to encourage them? No grand gesture, no expensive gift, but a small drop of water on the parched surface of their lives.

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Trust me, if you send a drop of water to a thirsty friend, God can multiply it to bring hope, joy, and new life. Maybe that’s why we give flowers to show love, or why we are encouraged to give a cup of cold water in His name.

Let me know if you try it. Or how others have given you water in your times of drought.

What do you want to be remembered for?

david

I once had a student friend who said, “You know what your problem is Jacci? You’re too nice!”
I know what he meant. We were having a discussion about sharing our faith and I was not “hell-fire and brimstone” enough for him. On my part, I was just trying to get him to stop making people cry in class. But his words got me thinking.

Actually, being too nice would be a great legacy. I wouldn’t mind being known for that. And since I’m getting older, I decided to write my obituary so that I can spend the rest of my life trying to live up to it.

The Obituary of Jacci Turner (sometime in distant future…hopefully)
“Jacci Turner died today, she was too nice. She had the audacity to believe that “it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance and not his wrath.

“Jacci was not a lot of things. She was not a great cook, a deep theologian, or a stellar campus worker. She was not administratively gifted or a fantastic fundraiser.

“But there was one thing Jacci did really well, she loved people. Jacci loved people other folks had a hard time loving, those on the margins, the broken, those unwelcome in most churches, even those who made their classmates cry.

“This love cost Jacci a lot: her reputation, friends, financial security and sometimes sleep. When she was discouraged she recalled the two great commands: Love God, Love Others and was content. You see this love flowed out from the knowledge that she was one of those people, rescued from the edge by the kindness of God, and wanting to follow in his footsteps.”

I hope I can spend the rest of my life living up to this obituary. What would you like yours to say?