Saturday, I led a Women’s Retreat at a local Baptist church. Our theme was “living the good life with our neighbors” and we focused on the question of how to develop relationships of solidarity with neighbors in our community across lines of difference (race, class, education, etc.).
For people with privilege (and most folks in the US have some sort of privilege) developing an ethic of solidarity requires that we start by thinking about the various forms of privilege that shape our lives. This is often hard because privilege gets a bad wrap in popular culture. This is understandable when privilege functions in ways that actively harm others – like, say white privilege. As a result of this, many people feel guilty about their privilege or simply uncomfortable about acknowledging and discussing their various forms of privilege.
This disdain of privilege is warranted when it is associated with categories of our identity – like race, class, religion, or sexual orientation. When these deeply personal aspects of our identity function as a source of privilege in society, that means that there are other people who are being discriminated against or even hurt based on similar aspects of their identity. White privilege is wrong, not because there is anything wrong about begin white, but because the privilege associate with whiteness is the result of conscious and unconscious racism in our society that “privileges” white people over against people of color. These privileges are a witness to the injustice in society and the danger associated with prejudice and bias.