The Franciscan Father Richard Rohr writes a Daily Meditation for anyone interested in spiritual growth. The following was his meditation for Monday, June 8, 2020. It’s entitled, “The Unspoken Privilege of Being White.” He invited his readers to “pass it on.”
“For a long time, I naively hoped that racism was long past. Those of us who are white have a very hard time seeing that we constantly receive special treatment (because the social systems are built to prioritize people with white skin).
“This systemic ‘white privilege’ makes it harder for us to recognize the experiences of people of color as valid and real when they speak of racial profiling, discrimination in the workplace, police brutality, continued segregation in schools, lack of access to housing, and so on. This is not the experience of most white people, so how can it be true? Now, we are being shown how limited our vision is.
“Because we have never been on the other side, we largely do not recognize the structural access we enjoy, the trust we think we deserve, the assumption that we always belong and do not have to earn our belonging. All this we take for granted as normal. Only the outsider can spot these attitudes in us. (We are quick to dismiss what is apparent to our neighbors who are black, indigenous, and people of color from their lived experience.)
“Of course, we all belong. There is no issue of more or less in the eyes of an Infinite God. Yet the ego believes the lie that there isn’t enough to go around and that for me to succeed or win, someone else must lose. So we’ve greedily supported systems and governments that work to our own advantage at the expense of others, most often people of color or any highly visible difference. The advancement of the white person was too often at the cost of other people not advancing at all. A minor history course should make that rather clear.
“I would have never seen my own white privilege if I had not been forced outside my dominant white culture by travel, by working in the jail, and by listening to stories in counseling sessions. But most of all, by making a complete fool of myself in many social settings.
“Power and privilege never surrenders without a fight. If your entire life has been to live unquestioned in your position of power – a power that was culturally given to you, but you think you earned – you will not give it up without a major failure, suffering, humiliation, or defeat.
“As long as we really want to be on top and would take advantage of any privilege or short cut to get us there, we will never experience true ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’ (revolutionary ideals and mottos from France and Haiti).
“If God operates as me, God operates as ‘thee’ too, and the playing field is leveled forever. Like Jesus, Francis, Clare, and many other humble mystics, we rush down instead of up. In the acts of letting go and of choosing to become servants, community can at last be possible. The illusory state of privilege just gets in the way of neighboring and basic human friendship.
“Reflection: What word or phrase resonates with or challenges me? What sensations do I notice in my body? What is mine to do?”
When George Floyd was dying in his anguish and agony, he cried out “Mama.” Some people said, “His mother was not there; she died two years ago.”
I don’t believe that! His mother was there. Heaven is not some place up in the sky; it’s being with God in a different dimension.
In 2007, I started working with hospice groups helping the dying find peace. Often when patients were close to death, they experienced a deceased relative or friend appearing, talking, and escorting them to heaven. I believe when George Floyd was dying, his Mama was with him!