PC: Katelyn Skye Bennett

15 ways I experience white privilege

White privilege: Maybe you’ve heard of it and can identify. Maybe you don’t see how it impacts your life. Regardless, I’ve made a list of just fifteen ways I experience white privilege on a regular basis. It has taken time to reach this point of realizing the ways I benefit from my whiteness since it can be difficult to identify something unless you feel the lack. But when we realize our privilege, we can be better allies to those who don’t experience the same privileges.

These are not in order of significance but rather in the order that they came to mind from my experiences. I encourage you to read to the end and consider what ones resonate or what I may have missed!

  1. Band aids match my skin almost perfectly and can be found at any corner store. In fact, that’s what inspired this blog. I cut my toe, put on a band aid, and could barely detect it through a camera. Go ahead, try to find it:

    Comment if you find the band aid. PC: Katelyn Skye Bennett

    Comment if you find the band aid. PC: Katelyn Skye Bennett

Brands like TruColour are trying to change this, but what if mainstream band aid brands took on the task as well?

  1. I am not followed or questioned when I shop, even though I wander back and forth quite a bit at grocery stores these days since I always go to a different one and do not know the layout. I have heard that others are watched more closely, however.
  2. Not being called racist slurs, ever. In all my 21 years, I cannot recall having ever experienced anyone degrading my humanity by calling me a derogatory, race-related term.
  3. I have a President (#NotMyPresident) who is my race and loves my race and prefers it over others, as do most other people in power in my country. This sounds like Nazi Germany now that I write it out, and it has a name: White Supremacy. This leads to a lot of policies in “my” favor, even though I desperately crave equity instead.
  4. Dolls with my skin color are the norm. I see a lot of young black girls in my city playing with white dolls, braiding their straight brown or blonde hair, but these children themselves are highly underrepresented. And although I have seen one or two black baby dolls in my time (eek, compared to hundreds or thousands of white ones!), I have never seen an Asian doll.
  5. White people are seen as the good ones in movies. They are generally the only ones in movies, to be honest, but when there is a person of color, s/he is usually stereotyped and put in an unflattering light. Even in Barbie movies, those with light features are the good ones who save the day and become princess, while the dark haired person or people are the villains. (Raquelle, anyone?)

    Raquelle from Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse. Credit to DraikJack, who added it to the bio I linked above.

    Raquelle from Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse. Credit to DraikJack, who added it to the bio I linked above.

  6. English, my first language, is the standard language that everyone else in must use to get by in the United States. Important documents are in English. Job applications and interviews are in English. Spanish is a common second language in certain neighborhoods of certain cities, but it is not accepted the way English is, and African American Vernacular English (AAVE) or Ebonics is not considered acceptable in formal environments. Moreover, immigrant languages like Swahili and Burmese are unrecognizable by most Americans, and Arabic could even cause alarm. But English, the language I was born speaking, is accepted in every American setting, and others are expected to learn my language instead of me stepping into theirs.
  7. Makeup in my color is easy to find. In my wealthy, white college town, it’s next to impossible (or actually impossible?) to find makeup if you are black or brown. Even in the city where I live now, it may depend on the neighborhood. But I have light skin and can always find foundation or powder to match my face.
  8. I have never been questioned or talked to by police. I have never been in trouble by them, and they have never had their cautious eyes on me. But I have witnessed this happen to one of my Afro-Latino friends while we walked together downtown.
  9. Barring the recent natural disasters, I can ignore most news with no consequence to my racial community, and many people would say that it is okay to do so. This attitude of “take a mental break and focus on something ‘positive’” demonstrates potential apathy towards the stories of others whose live experiences are different than my white peers, and regardless of either genuine or apathetic intent, it always demonstrates the privilege we have to step away without being directly affected by that action.
  10. “Skin color” crayons mean peach or apricot (which, oddly enough, are yellow fruits but white-skin-colored crayons) instead of brown. I have had both a white peer and a young brown, Latina friend refer to crayons in this way and have spoken up to say, “Which skin color?”

    This is what I call a queen. PC: Katelyn Skye Bennett

    This is what I call a queen. PC: Katelyn Skye Bennett

  11. Shampoos and conditioners for my hair type are cheaper than those suited for Afro-textured hair. I need something to lock in the moisture for my combination of soft and course 3A curls, but the Aussie brand does this well while being about two-thirds the price of hair products for more textured hair at Walgreens.
  12. I am not questioned if I belong anywhere I go. I have multicultural, multiracial friend circles that are welcoming. People in my African church thank me for coming as the only white person because they see it is rare and potentially difficult due to language barriers. (It’s my pleasure, honestly; it’s my church.) And in public, one of the most white settings I experience these days, I am seen as harmless. I can come and go as I please (refer to #2).
  13. My name is easy for Americans to pronounce correctly, and because my family name sounds European, I have statistically higher chances at hearing back from jobs (Bertrand and Mullainathan 2003; Pager et al 2009). Yes, I experience privilege simply because of my white-sounding name.
  14. Others want to look like me. I am reminded of this every day when I wake up to see my roommate’s lightening cream sitting on her bed. White European beauty standards reign not only in this country but around the world. I am of White European descent, so my light skin tone and my sister’s silky straight hair are traits that many others seek to attain, even if their bodies are naturally darker or their hair kinkier. (Don’t try to be me. Be you. You’re gorgeous as is.)

    My roommate's lightening cream. PC: Katelyn Skye Bennett

    My roommate’s lightening cream. PC: Katelyn Skye Bennett

 

Most of the things on this list may seem small, but they add up. This post does not delve deep into systemic issues but scrapes the surface of privilege. Once you grasp this, however, you can dig deeper to see the ways these examples form patterns that affect every aspect of a person’s life, both for white people and people of color. As white people, we just receive unearned benefits, hence the term privilege.

What are some ways YOU have experienced white privilege or seen it play out in the lives of others? Comment below, and let’s keep learning together!

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DACA, the Wall, and the fall of Jericho

 

I had a revelation about walls the other day, and it seems fitting to share it in light of Trump’s decision to end DACA. I have only grief regarding that decision, but the revelation that I had last week is a bit more hopeful…for some.

Denver skyline at sunset. The city. PC: Katelyn Skye Bennett

Denver skyline at sunset. The city. PC: Katelyn Skye Bennett

God broke down the walls of Jericho. He can and will break them down the physical and relational walls that Trump is helping to build in the United States, walls that have been going up for over a hundred years. God’s plan is to bring people together to worship Him: all nations, all languages, bowing and worshiping together at his feet. Dividing people by tribe, nation, or language does nothing to serve that purpose.

God also broke down Jericho’s walls without the use of force. His people used the peaceful and persistent method of marching around the city. Racial justice activists and those who stand up for immigrants in the United States follow these methods as well, and although they use only their voices, they are met with opposition and force by those who do not understand their shouts for justice, their pleas for systems and structures to be made right. But God did it for Jericho, and He can do it here.

Human violence is not necessary to accomplish God’s purposes, but faith and faithfulness are. Friends of God, be persistent in walking around the city until the walls fall. In the face of hopelessness, cry out to God and keep walking around the city doing His work.

Jericho is meant to be a metaphor here for bringing people together. A house divided cannot stand, as Jesus said in Matthew 12.

But suppose one wants to look at the story of Jericho literally instead of taking the above point to heart. So be it.

The walls were around Jericho just as this nation is building walls around itself so that newcomers may not enter and those who are not accepted must leave. The United States is Jericho. God used others to destroy the old city of Jericho, decimating everyone but Rahab, the one woman who respected Him, and her household. Hear me: The United States is also in danger of destruction.

We are bringing it upon ourselves.

In the face of this destruction, are you one of the righteous whom God will protect, or are you living in sin, disrespecting God by disrespecting the people He has made?

…People like Latinx and Black Americans who have done nothing but live and work for this country yet are daily suspected of drug dealing or violence because of their darker skin. Shot in the streets without a trial, innocent but perceived as guilty and not given a chance to defend themselves before their breath is ripped from their chests. Men imprisoned, separated from their children, called felons, and stripped of their voting rights for petty crimes. Why? Because Black and Latino men were profiled to begin with, instead of white men. Because there are quotas certain judicial departments must meet, so even police with good intentions may be put in a pinch to fulfill their jobs. Because the laws are inherently racist and very complex. And because Americans themselves are racist and unnecessarily fearful.

…People like undocumented immigrants who barely getting by because they can only land under the table jobs unless they have the right connections, because their other skills and education are not valued more than a paper calling them citizen, because it is easier to cheat and deceive people who do not have the power to fight for themselves if they do not have that magic nine-digit code called a social security number.

…People like Latinx folk who are documented Americans but are told to return to “their country,” told to speak English, or complimented on their English as if being an English speaker is both the original and superior language the United States. (Neither is true; ask a person of indigenous descent.)

…People like war- and famine-fleeing refugees who enter the United States with nothing, are given extremely little help from the government, and work low wage jobs because their credentials may not be recognized or because their English is not yet fluent enough or because they do not have the required education yet do not have the time or finances to pursue that education here. Some refugees recognize this discrimination by name and others do not. Regardless, the inequity exists. I witness it daily.

She could be a Dreamer, I suppose, with the universe before her but the tentacles of this nation's unjust policies stinging and strangling her head. I found her when returning from the Santa Fe art walk in Denver.  PC: Katelyn Skye Bennett

She could be a Dreamer, I suppose, with the universe before her but the tentacles of this nation’s unjust policies stinging and strangling her head. I found her when returning from the Santa Fe art walk in Denver. PC: Katelyn Skye Bennett

I prefer the metaphorical version of Jericho that points to Heaven. It’s more joyful, harmonious, full of hope. But the literal version, which portends the destruction before God destroys the world for its sin and then makes it new again, is just as crucial.

God does not discriminate. In Amos 9:10, He told His chosen nation, “All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say ‘Disaster shall not overtake or meet us’” (ESV). Yet there is hope of restoration, for forgiveness comes with repentance. (Read 1 John here and consider the story of Nineveh.) God does not change, so this is true for Americans today as well as Israelites and Ninevites of old.

Where do you stand before God and in this nation? Where does your church stand? Your city?

 

Some say refugees. I say friends.

I spend nearly every day of the week hanging out at the houses of refugees or having them over my place. On weekends many of us attend church together, all weekend long. On weekdays others of us eat lunch together; I always look forward to 12:30. Several of us practice music together, all of us converse together and call out the ways we appreciate each other, and some of my acquaintances who are refugees open up their houses till midnight to share ugali and rice and greens and fish.

Just this Sunday, I visited a Congolese pastor’s house as a stranger and left with an invitation to return anytime. As I left, he made sure to point out his apartment number and floor so I could find it next time. Thank you, Pastor David.

I recently realized that I talk about my friends who are refugees differently than I talk about my native-born American friends, particularly those who are white or monocultural. Sometimes this lends context, but it can also be problematic if lending to an othering effect.

“Reaching out to” or “serving” our refugee neighbors or any marginalized population in order to feel good about ourselves hinders us from fully engaging with the group being “served.” When we do this, we are looking through a lens of power versus powerless. Although we may be doing good deeds and growing in our understanding of particular refugee populations, subconsciously thinking in terms of power dynamics blocks our hearts from receiving love.

We native-born Americans are not the saviors. But we can be good friends.

Here’s an idea: let’s develop deeper friendships so refugees become fully human in our eyes, fully capable of giving while still fully needy, like us native-born American humans. Let’s open our hearts to receive love from the strangers and soon-to-be-friends we seek to welcome.

While the humanity of refugees is not a question, it is important to note that the human experiences of refugees have been shaped by horrors like war and statelessness. Refugees have experienced things most native-born Americans have not. Their experiences will vary by age and country and contingency. The histories of the countries they have fled and lived in have shaped them in significant ways. The color of their skin will also impact their life chances once in the United States. We must consider the systems in place that affect their daily lives.

Refugees in the United States have overcome a lot: less than one percent of refugees worldwide are resettled, and it is common to spend almost two decades in camps or foreign cities before coming to the US, if granted status here.

Yet once they receive this status and move yet again, they come to a land that often treats them poorly.

Several of my Congolese-American friends have told me that Africans do not believe them when they say the United States is not heaven. (I witnessed this over
-admiring attitude firsthand in DRC myself.) But the truth is that when they come to the United States, they can barely make rent. Their living conditions are not necessarily significantly different. They start at the bottom of the workforce. Academic degrees do not always carry over to the American system. In short, life is still quite difficult.

Take pause today to consider these injustices. Do a little research. Sleep on what you discover. Wake up woke.

Now take pause to consider the ways refugees give to your community and the United States, the ways you have seen them serve. Thank them for their contributions. Be creative about it.

Today I stand with countless global citizens to celebrate world refugee day. It has been a truly splendid day full of energy and smiles and even a bit of dancing (see the InTandem – a Flashmob of Empathy video below from Denver’s World Refugee Day rally.) I particularly think of the ways my friends are bettering my life through their hospitality and friendship and food. The main ingredients I have noted are time, love, and ugali, given in generous portions. I am grateful for my friends who are refugees and am incredibly glad to be a part of their lives as they are in mine.

How to be a peacemaker in a war-torn world, Part 1

To be a peacemaker is to fight.

When multiple races, tribes or countries have conflict or war with each other, peace may seem unattainable. (Re)conciliation requires faithful, patient effort and continual hope. After all, people and groups disagree with each other and are often engrained in their opinions. One side has hurt the other in a significant way that needs to be repented from before any true change can be made. In return, that hurt side may be retaliating to this injustice. Even when two parties come to the table to reconcile, it’s not easy to rebuild trust.

The battle for peace is hard-won, but it’s worth the effort. It’s worth the energy. It’s worth the pain.

Here are some tips to bring two or more parties together for peace:

Listen.

Don’t assume. Speak respectfully and demonstrate humility. Even if you disagree (and have history and statistics to prove why), when you show you care about one party’s opinion, they are more likely to engage in conversation with you. So, be respectful as you listen to another human or mediate between two parties. Given some time, this can lead to positive social change.

Be faithful.

Change probably won’t be immediate, and you may be persecuted for your efforts – even by those you thought you agreed with, since you are trying to bring them into harmony with an opposing group that they think could harm them! Recognize the fear there and don’t take it personally; keep fighting.

The fight for peace may be mundane at times. It may seem hopeless. It may exhaust you, but remember why you are fighting. Look to the peace heroes who have fought the battle before you. Their examples offer great wisdom and inspiration as you press onward.

Keep hope!

We are not fighting flesh and blood but are battling spiritual powers. These spiritual powers work through the corrupt societal structures we see, and we need to remember that prayer is effective. Yes, stand with the oppressed; in fact, God commands this. Yes, work in tangible ways for harmony and unity, shalom and reconciliation. But also pray.

Without God’s strength and his promise to make all things new, we have no hope or power to bring peace.

Gain encouragement by look at the small examples of success. Record and retell the inspiring testimonies demonstrating the fruit of your labor. Keep hope, my friends; keep hope.

 

As you labor for (re)conciliation, ask yourself why you are fighting for peace. How much are you willing to sacrifice for this battle?

It’s not easily won, but it’s worth the fight.

http://ricktylerforcongress.com/2016/06/07/the-billboard-strategy/

Are white Americans under attack?

“Make America White Again.” Thus said the Trump-inspired billboard in the link my friend posted. I follow my friend LBJ on Facebook since he constantly shares stimulating posts about race in the United States, and this week he posted a news link that I thought must be a satire.

However, snopes.com confirmed the existence of the since-removed billboard and shared a wealth of information about the man who put it up. Rick Tyler is from Tennessee and is running for Congress on a blatantly white supremacist platform. I will address a few of his points below. For more information on Tyler’s consistently racist beliefs, see his campaign website, which is more of a hub for mini audio clips on white supremacy than an explanation of his political plan. I suggest you skim these sources now so you can read this response in context.

According to the Associated Press’s article on ABC7 Chicago, “(Tyler) told WRCB-TV that he doesn’t hate ‘people of color,’ but wants to return to an earlier time ‘when there were no break-ins; no violent crime; no mass immigration.’”

Americans, we can do better than to vote in a man who believes black people are animals and that intermarriage between races is wrong. We can do better than to buy into these things ourselves.

Tyler romanticizes the past and portrays the past sixty years as the decline of this nation due to immigration laws that allow more people of color to enter. That vision of the United States is simply not true. The way the United States addresses crime and incarcerates people of color has shifted over the years as policies are created or adjusted, but crime has been here all along, and not as a function of skin color.

As for the immigration comment, going back to a time before mass immigration would mean a non-white nation since Europeans were the first mass immigrants to a land of Native Americans. Somehow the majority of people forget that.

Tyler uses Christian lingo to bulk up his points, but taking Scripture out of context or using it to divide people on the basis of skin color is never what God wants. Snopes quotes Tyler saying, “The Caucasian race has been inordinately blessed and favored by the God of scripture. It was among this people that the new covenant gospel of Jesus Christ took root, blossomed, and flourished. Western Christian civilization evolved in the ensuing centuries leading to the eventual rise of our beloved America of yesteryear.”

Actually, Jesus Christ established his new covenant in the Middle East, in Israel-Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, and then his followers spread his good news west into Asia, north into Europe and south into Africa. Missionaries continued to spread his Gospel of redemption and reconciliation, mercy and grace, love and truth and justice throughout the world. Clearly, Christianity is not a white religion; it is for everyone who would believe in Jesus.

Continuing with Tyler’s religious comment, the white race has not been favored more highly by God than any other race or ethnicity. Since the concept of race was developed by errant humans, those considered to be white have been privileged by other humans, by fellow white people, but this is not a sign of God’s blessing. Human power has nothing on God’s, and one would be wise not to confuse the two. Another word of caution for people who want to be like Jesus: avoid conflating Christianity with patriotism, white supremacy or nationalism.

Tyler exemplifies white supremacy at its prime. Initially I was surprised by his radicalism since it is 2016, but when I look at the history of this nation, I see that nothing has really improved; racism has only changed forms over time. To say Tyler could be from the Jim Crow era glorifies the present, which evidently is not accurate. While Tyler is only one man who, according to Snopes, accrued only a small following when he ran for Congress in 2014, the fact that he is making such racist, Islamophobic and homophobic public statements is frightening and, honestly, maddening.

For the sake of length, I cannot address everything Tyler has said, but many of his statements are so outrageous that they seem not to need a response. How could anyone believe that there is a white genocide in this nation, for example, and that black Africans are destroying the “once pristine and orderly white-ruled” South Africa? Read and research history to discover the truth.

PC: KSB

The Bus Fight

Denver,
Summer 2014.

White man on a bus.
Black youth—my age—as well.

Fight.
Words, words of hate.
“N*****,” they both called each other.

I’d never seen anything like it;
I’d never seen such hate.

The white man wouldn’t listen,
Wouldn’t heed a word.
I wanted to tell the black man that he wouldn’t make any progress,
But I held back
>out of fear of the fight
>and because I didn’t want the man to have to be submitted to a white voice
>again.

Help doesn’t always mean stepping in for others.

They wanted to take it on to the street.
“Colfax and—” what crossroad?
Broadway was my stop.

They wanted to fight out of rage
(the white man had started it over literally nothing),
But they were both scared.
I think one got off a stop before me, one after.

I hurried away for fear that I’d be caught in a brawl.

Denver,
Summer 2014.

I witnessed the results
Of a racist history, alive today.

I hadn’t known the divide was so real, still real,
And while I never saw another bus fight, I saw
>discriminatory housing laws causing segregation
>gentrification of the remaining black neighborhoods
>homelessness in men now out of the (broken) criminal justice system
>fear of poor, minority males
>poverty mere yards from wealth.

White man on a bus.
Black youth—my age—as well.
Hate and fear.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-g_ZyGPDIEvU/Tx94hpZODdI/AAAAAAAABLI/818wiiN90I0/s1600/2+whites+only.tif

Why salvation is not exclusive

Two years ago this weekend, God changed my heart and set me on the course toward racial reconciliation.

At a summer ministries retreat, in a room full of students lamenting over the ways they had been hurt, God’s Spirit convicted me to confess my racial prejudice in public and to repent. Although God rescued me from slavery to sin and brought me into his Kingdom when I was a young girl, and although he led me through various seasons of focused growth (e.g. prayer in third grade, evangelism in my senior year of high school), that weekend in 2014 marked a significant turning point in my life.

On the same weekend in 2015, God called me to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I hope to work with refugees. This connects to my work while I’m in the States because the refugees may move here, and I want them to be safe.

While in the States, I fight for #blacklivesmatter because God’s work is holistic—he cares about both body and soul. White evangelical sermons often focus on the soul, and since eternity is unfathomably long, I’m glad these pastors are thinking ultimate. We want people to know Jesus. Yet these same pastors and churches may also be afraid to talk directly about race. About bodies. They leave out half of how Jesus interacted with people and spoke to them.

You see, Jesus raised the dead, healed the blind, and hung out with women and men from the underprivileged ethnic groups, the Gentiles and mixed-race Samaritans. The Jews of his time weren’t too fond of these folk, to put it lightly. In fact, the Jewish leaders’ speech dripped with prejudice toward them. But Jesus wanted his ethnic group, the Jews, to come alive and see that God’s Kingdom welcomes women and men of all ethnicities.

(As a crucial aside, Jesus didn’t call everyone to be the same—the Gentiles did not have to conform to Jewish practices such as circumcision, for example. But he created all people in his image and desires for them to be reconciled to each other just as they can be reconciled to God through his sacrifice on the cross.)

The apostle Paul proclaims, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16, NIV). God does not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, social class or gender. Everyone who “believe(s) in the Lord Jesus … will be saved” (Acts 16:31, NIV). God doesn’t qualify “everyone.” He says everyone, black and white, Native American and Indian immigrant, Puerto Rican and Vietnamese.

Although many black Americans are restricted to zip codes with poor housing and poor education today, if they trust Jesus, they will dance on the golden streets of Heaven. (And since black churches in the United States tend to incorporate more movement than white ones, the Lord knows these brothers and sisters will make a prettier sight than most people from my white church! 😉 )

Part of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples—which applies to all Christians today—begs for God’s Kingdom to come and will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. So why aren’t more white evangelicals engaging in social issues regarding race and public policy? Why do they hesitate to believe the real life testimonies of black brothers and sisters?

It would be horrible for a newly arrived black refugee walking out of a convenience store and down the streets of his own neighborhood to be shot by a police officer who has been socialized to fear black men. It would be atrocious for a Congolese woman, scarred from warfare in her home country, to see her young son killed in this new land of “opportunity and freedom” or to be beaten herself on the roadside. (If you weren’t following the news last year, I’m referencing Mike Brown, Tamir Rice and Marlene Pinnock.) I pray these borrowed examples will never happen to new black refugees.

In my experience, the Church has compassion for refugees. It follows that it should also act justly and lovingly toward black Americans who have lived in this country for centuries, building it from the ground up. I pray the borrowed stories will never again happen to black Americans.

Toward that end I strive.

I encourage my Christian readers to seek the Lord as you also strive for his Kingdom. All human beings have dignity, being made in God’s image. Why then do we remain complacent about the structures that keep many of our black brothers and sisters in both visible and invisible chains? I especially call Christians to open their eyes and hearts to the reality of racial injustice and inequality in this country.

Let us not grow weary in doing good.

Never forget that #blacklivesmatter.