Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Invisible Knapsack

August 25, 2009
keep alert ... keep awake ... keep awake Mark 13:33ff

Ah, that's such a good reminder to me. Keep awake, the scripture says, for lessons, for nudges, for signs that God is near - that things will change. If today's didactic on Pastoral Care and Diversity in an indication of things to come, I believe I'm going to be changed by the course.

To prepare for class, we read Peggy McIntosh's 1988 classic, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack." In this enlightening article, she outlines conditions of her life for which her African-American colleagues cannot count on. Many of these items create a pause for me.

Here's a partial list, just to wake you up:

* I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
* I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
* When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
* I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
* I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
* Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of my financial reliability.
*I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.
* I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
* I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
* I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
* I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
* I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my race.
* If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
* I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
* I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help my race will not work against me.
* If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.

How are you awake, in this moment?

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