White Privilege - Let's Talk curriculum United Church of Christ

Adventures in Privilege

by Karen Richter

Shadow Rock begins the first section of the UCC’s White Privilege: Let’s Talk curriculum (Part 1 – Spiritual Autobiography Told Through the Lens of Race) next Sunday.

I’m excited. I’m anxious.

I’m excited because being a witness (on my best days, a catalyst) to people’s spiritual growth and maturation is my calling. This curriculum, used wisely and gently, is a formative experience. It’s easy to cast aspersions on this kind of topic… can you imagine someone – maybe you – saying, “well, that’s just politics,” in a dismissive tone? The women’s movement is known for equating the personal and the political. I’d like to make an argument equating the political and the spiritual. It’s all part of life.

I’m anxious because I know what I experienced when reading this material. Since September, I’ve studied the Spiritual Autobiography Told Through the Lens of Race section, reading deeply about 3 times. And as I read, I remembered.

  • the black friends I knew and loved, even though we never attended the same birthday parties or church services, never visited one another’s homes
  • the awkwardness in high school homeroom when the teacher suggested that the black students nominate a black girl for the homecoming court
  • the shock I felt in college when I had my first honest conversation about race with black and white friends late at night in the dormitory
  • the realization, too little too late, that I have been in work environments with differing expectations, standards, and assumptions for colleagues based on race
  • the embarrassment I felt recently when a salesperson ignored store policy for my convenience because I’m white.

I remembered. I felt things. Sometimes as I engaged with the curriculum and the personal histories of the authors, I felt gratitude, appreciation, impatience for the world to be better. And yes, sometimes I felt guilty.

You see, the curriculum doesn’t have a goal to “make” anyone feel guilt or shame. BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN YOU WON’T. Guilt can be a healthy reaction when we realize a mismatch between our actions, inactions or complicity and our deeply held values.

I am white. I can’t help that. I don’t feel guilty about being white.

I am white. I am responsible for what I do with my whiteness.

What does it mean to take responsibility for my own privilege? Over the next few weeks at Shadow Rock, we’re going to be leaning into that question. I’m excited. I’m anxious. Pray for us, friends… for our churches, our communities, our nation.