Wednesday, November 26, 2014

After Ferguson: Talking to our Kids about Privilege

If you are on Facebook, I’m sure that your feed yesterday and today has been full of #ferguson.  If yours is like mine it is with disappointment, rage and disgust as well as prayer, cries for justice and ideas about action.  Within myself I feel those things and more.  Even as we finish a worship series that highlights our privilege with relation to the first peoples of the nation, we hear news that highlights our white privilege with relation to our brown and black neighbors in our nation.  I weep.  I mourn.  I wonder, ‘How long, O Lord?’

As I think about what else I might offer of my own thoughts on this, I’d like to pass along a couple resources I found helpful in thinking about my own privilege, which may help others in talking to children (or adults) about ways that those of us who are pale or pink benefit from our pigmentation without even thinking about it.  There’s plenty out there on the internet for you to find, but I found a good starting place for concrete examples to be Peggy McIntosh’s 1988 work on the ‘Invisible Backpack’ of white privilege.  Although the article was written almost 25 years ago, her list of ways that white privilege is experienced in ways small and large is a helpful starting place for noticing for ourselves and with our children when we unthinkingly benefit by not even having to think about how we move about in the world. 

This week I was particularly struck that “I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.”  And yet many do, including some of our friends, neighbors and the brothers and sisters in Christ who worship with us.  Inviting our children and opening our own eyes to notice is a first step to recognizing our experience – whether it’s the realization that the Bandaid I pull from the box will most likely match my skin or knowing that I will not have to look far to find children’s books which have characters who look pretty much like me and my children. 

For a plethora of resources on teaching children about race, privilege and Ferguson, The Atlantic put together a long list of articles, videos, books for children and adults, poetry, even ‘educational hashtags’.  And The Root has a short but helpful set of ‘Do’s and Don’t’s’ for teaching and talking about Ferguson with children and youth.

As we begin this season on Advent, may we do so with confession, action and hope.  May we challenge the Thanksgiving and Christmas narratives that make pale faces the center of the story.  May the many-hued face God shine on us and be gracious to us and may the presence of God give us peace as we despair, as we rage, as we pray, as we act.