The Pernicious Power of Privilege

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Pratt Abbott

“I stand for the flag and kneel at the cross.”

Harmless as a Facebook filter, one might think. That is until you post on your personal Facebook: “I don’t stand for the flag, which has symbolic power it shouldn’t have. And frankly to kneel at the cross is a misguided attempt to celebrate Roman capital punishment. We serve a living Palestinian Jew not a dead one. But that’s none of my business.” At that point you would have thought I had been one of the ones shouting “Crucify him!” with the way the people came out to defend their flag and their white Jesus.

Ever since I’ve been speaking out on race I’ve discovered the pernicious power of privilege. I’ve discovered the danger in being what a mentor called a “walking controversy.” I’ve discovered the sadness felt in being uninvited to events because of the engagement with issues our nation is facing “because our board just can’t get behind what you’re saying.” Sadly, for me anyway, I’ve discovered the pervasive power that private Facebook messages calling me a “grandstander” on these issues and that “perhaps reflective time away would be good for my soul.”

You know what would be good for my soul? Not having to engage this conversation in the first place. I told my wife tonight I didn’t ask for this to be thrust upon any of us, but in her wisdom she reminded me what a privileged statement that was. She reminded me that persons of color don’t have the choice of engaging in racism because white people like me have for centuries enabled systems of racism toward them.

So this much is clear: I join with the voices across the centuries who call the church to a better version of herself. This will be costly. It will mean that you will lose Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Your portfolio and résumé might not be palatable for most churches and their pastorate positions. But the God I have come to know, the risen Lord who overcame the cross you claim to be kneeling at cares far more for persons of color than a fabric we know as a flag.

Kneel if you have to, protest, march, write letters, ask your pastors why they aren’t calling racism a sin from their pulpit. Do what you must to start the conversation through whatever channels and avenues if you have. I promise to join you, and I invite all of us to unite in this movement and this mission to end the power of privilege from our private Facebook pages to the halls of the most powerful buildings Washington D.C.