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?