Sunday, October 15, 2017

Reflecting on My White Privilege

I am planning to writing further in the related series, "Making the Macedonian Call Normative in Missions Today" and "You Know You're a Continuationist When...," so stay tuned for those.  Meanwhile, there's this.

Out of accession to popular culture, I want to take a moment to reflect on my white privilege. I can encourage other people by admitting that my life has been easier because of my skin color.  I have to start with my father, who grew up in the rural upper midwest without electricity or indoor plumbing.  All the heat and cooking for the house was in a black pot belly stove in their kitchen.  Neither of his parents had a college degree.  He was limited in school activities by the requirements of living on the family farm, including milking the cows every day before daybreak.  He was placed in special education class while in junior high.

In another cold midwestern state, my mother was the oldest child and grew up in an apartment above a bar.  Her dad was a drunk and her mother died of cancer when she was eight years old, at which time she started to keep the house and raise her younger brother.  Her father remarried a woman, a heavily medicated chainsmoker, adding three more children to my mom's responsibilities.

My father and mother married at eighteen while my dad worked graveyard shift at a local factory.  He worked that same shift for 17 years, my entire early childhood until 12 years of age, at which time my  family moved for my dad to go to Bible college.  There he was a full time student, his working two minimum wage jobs and my mom at a lunch counter downtown.  We lived in government subsidized housing.  We bought a Chevy Vega for eighty dollars, which had a hole in the floor through which we could see the road and exhaust blew into the car.  The next vehicle was a Volkswagon with five adults and no heat.  We took turns scraping ice and frost off the inside of the windshield.

Our family moved from government subsidized housing to something a little more than a shack besides the railroad tracks, literally on the other side of the tracks.  We had a dug out basement with crumbling walls, where was our shower, a pipe sticking out of the wall, with a floor of deteriorating concrete.

White privilege.  I understand, it's a weightless knapsack of assets and resources I was given when I was born white.  Actually, no.

A key to my childhood is that I didn't think about privilege at all.  I never knew I didn't have it good.  I did have it good. No one told me I didn't.  I thought I did.  I was breathing. I lived in a free country.  I believed in Jesus Christ.  I had a home in heaven.  I owned a Bible in English.  We made ends meet.  We survived.   Whatever the stuff we had or didn't have wasn't important.

Everyone today is privileged if he grows up in the United States -- red and yellow, black and white.  It is still a land of opportunity.  Giving people even another impression is one of the worst things you could do to him. Even though some have it better than others, it doesn't have to stay that way.  Even if it is true, you can be happy that someone has it better than you.  That person is not holding you back -- be happy for him.

Everyone will still have trials and tribulations, face opposition.  Even if the playing field is slanted in some way, it doesn't help anyone to tell him that.  That's just the way it is in a sin-cursed world.  Some are born on third base and others have to touch all four bases.  What someone needs to hear is, you can do it.  You can make it.  You can succeed.  Stop feeling sorry for yourself.  Take all of the energy dedicated to self-pity, wrap it in a ball, and send in the direction of a solution.

What should be required reading for schools is Up From Slavery, the autobiography of Booker T. Washington (the kindle edition is 60 cents).  If I gave it a sub title it could be, Build a Better Brick, which is what Washington drilled into the students at Tuskegee.  He didn't invoke white privilege.  He said, you build a better brick.  If you do, people will buy it.  That's still what people need to hear, and not the alternative message of W. E. B DuBuois that sent crowds flooding to congregate around Washington D.C.

God created a world of potential and of exponential growth.  In a few generations, one seed results in stalks of corn covering the face of the planet. It's not a zero sum game.  Somebody else's gain is not my loss.  There's more than enough for all of us.  Most important is the grace of God.  Psalm 37:25, "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."


KJB1611 said...

Dear Pastor B,

You are right, you are so privileged. You should give everything that you have to an oppressed minority NFL player who is making millions of dollars.

Pastor Mike Harding said...

Simply fantastic

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Thomas.

I appreciate it, Pastor Harding.

Kent Brandenburg said...

SharperIron linked to this post and there are four comments there. I'm going to comment on the first three of them, as I have the time, providing the link to the comment. I think it would be of interest to hear an answer.

Bert Perry (,

I wonder what the folks at SI think of your often starting comments with "sigh," what that means to them. You should ask to get some feedback on that. It might be interesting. What do people here think of starting comments with a written out "sigh"?

I admit I have privileges others don't have. I was born in America and in a two parent family. I'm all for admitting privileges we may or may not have. I'm saying in the end, it's not helpful to focus on what we don't have and what others have. It is counterproductive. It won't end with admission of privilege. It doesn't help.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Joel Shaffer (

I wonder what a missionary in the inner city is. What do you mean, "inner city"? Is that a pejorative itself? What's different about the inner city and anywhere else? Why differentiate? Are you saying there's something different?

Your comment reads like fake news, like you are living in a bubble disparate from reality, which I know isn't true. It's just a bubble of political correctness in your own mind. Every single day in America on multiple fronts is commentary of people feeling sorry for themselves. I read it. every. day. You've no doubt heard of Ta-Nehisi Coates, Tavis Smiley, Cornel West, Jamelle Bouie, etc.? There are dozens more, at least 50. It actually never ends.

You say that what I'm writing is a prejudicial stereotype of which I and others need to repent. Was Booker T. Washington prejudice and stereotyping? Did you read his book? Do you think it's gotten better since he wrote it? That was a pivotal time in U.S. history, and people bought into the W.E.B DuBois view of the world, that you seem to have also done, instead of the Washington view. You should read Washington's Sunday night talks, in print in his complete works. Do you think that Walter Williams is unnecessarily stereotyping? I see you as part of the problem, Joel.

How does admitting white privilege help white people as the intended audience? Who is preaching the message of white privilege? Who? If you study it, it's not a Christian or biblical message. You read like someone on a different planet if you don't think that people aren't reminded every day about how that they have it better than others. At San Francisco State, where my daughter goes, she is in a very small minority, and the majority (which are ethnic minorities) talks every day about how abused they are in multiple classes, unchallenged. They have almost no one to complain too. They are in charge of making things better. Just make it better. Part of the problem is that they don't even know what is better.

Kent Brandenburg said...

David R. Brumbelow (

and Tyler (

I agree with both of you.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a member of any aforementioned sites. Although, I wonder if the people who are may be a bit on the well-meaning but naive side. They seem to be buying into the propaganda that the Deep State is putting out. Sure, there is real racism in the world and in the country. But let's be real, the powers that be are using black people as political pawns (talk about racist!) and are purposefully trying to create a race war.

I don't want to put words into anyone else's mouth or impugn their motives, but it surely seems as if many conservative and/or Christians have recently jumped onto the "racist" bandwagon. Call me a conspiracy theorist if you want, but I wonder if perhaps this is just another convenient chance to jump all over Trump, because he is such a "racist" (rolling eyes). Why all of a sudden the great concern over "racism"? It seems a bit of a coincidence to all of a sudden now have this great concern over racism and "white privilege", now that the Deep State is using this type of thing simply to try to create civil chaos in the country. I don't claim to be a genius or any smarter than the next guy, but why can't these people realize that they are just buying into the propaganda, just like the Deep State wants them to?