I’m doing a short series on listening well as a person of privilege* because I often encounter privileged people who sincerely desire to stand in solidarity with oppressed people but don’t really know how to go about it in an honoring way.
As persons of power, privileged people (unlike oppressed people) are typically afforded these rights. As such, it’s only natural for them to expect to receive these rights in the context of reconciliation work. But just because it is natural doesn’t make it helpful or right. Indeed, to insist on retaining these rights reveals a misunderstanding of both power dynamics*** and the upside-down reconciliation work of Jesus.
For an excellent example of this self-sacrificial reversal of power, we need look no further than Jesus, who abdicated his “rights” in order to honor the image of God in oppressed people and build a bridge to them.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
What would it look like for you to adopt Jesus’ humble stance in your interactions with the oppressed people in your community? What would it cost you?
Continue to part 2...
*In general, you are privileged if you are: white, male, heterosexual, middle-class or higher, educated/upwardly-mobile, able-bodied, and/or physically attractive. (Note: this is not an exhaustive list.) Also, you are privileged if you don’t see that some people in our society are privileged and others are not. Blindness to privilege is privilege.
**This short list of “rights” is by no means exhaustive.
***Suggested reading on power dynamics in the Church: Soong-Chan Rah, Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church; Joseph Barndt, Understanding and Dismantling Racism: The 21st Century Challenge to White America; Korie Edwards, The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race in Interracial Churches