White Sisters, Let’s Sort Through the Trash


Jody Fernando -Trash Sorting5

“White Ladies, the white community is our space and our responsibility. Our sisters of color have to exist in a world that is even harder on them because they are women and also because they are not white. As a woman we should get this on a deep level. We, after all, exist in a man’s world. Instead of pitting us against each other, shouldn’t we join ranks in empathy?” —Abby Norman

In the shadow of the shootings of more innocent black men last week, Abby Norman issued a challenge to pick up our own trash and deal with the garbage of white supremacy in our midst.

It’s not fun.

It’s stinky.

It can leave our hands a bit of a mess.

While many of us have experienced this reality living as a woman in a man’s world, we know a whole lot less about doing it as a white person in a non-white world. We champion female equality, quote statistics about glass ceilings, and shout our hard-earned rights from the rooftops; but when it comes to race, we’re often shamefully ignorant. We fail to apply the lessons we’ve learned from our own emancipation to the emancipation of others. It’s the Fall all over again, and we’re left holding the garbage bag of our own self-centeredness.

Until we begin to allow the categories society dictates to intersect, we won’t be able to fully grasp the issues at hand. Last week, innocent black men AND policemen were shot. BOTH  are tragedies. Society wants to sort us into neat camps of “us vs them.” As women, we must not fall prey to this lie. We do not live in an either-or world, but a both-and world. We are women AND we are white. Fragmenting our identities and ignoring the color of our skin because of ignorance or shame has dire implications for our relationships. To be part of redemption and restoration, we must live our identities as whole beings, fully aware of the image we bear.

After we acknowledge the presence of our trash, the question becomes what we will do with it. Will we toss it quickly, too sensitive to sort through the mess to see what’s really there? Or will we take the time to spread it out and understand how it got there in the first place? For white women, sorting out the intersectionality of our identities in light of the current racial climate requires deep heart work.

Here’s what we need to do:

Understand whiteness and privilege. Being white doesn’t mean we understand what it means to be white. In fact, it may actually prevent us from understanding it if we’ve always lived in the majority. To truly understand, we need to learn the history of many peoples and how white people have wielded their power in damaging ways. We need to be in relationship with people who trust us enough to tell us what they really think. We need to read and listen beyond our own perspectives and consider why others may think differently than we do.

Teach our children a new way. If black parents must teach their sons about the harshness of police brutality targeted at them, then white parents must teach our children about the injustice of this reality. Sit your children (as age allows) in front of the news and let them see. Do not shield them from the brokenness of this world, but offer a new vision right along with the pain of the old ways. In order to understand restoration, they must first understand what it means to live in a broken world.

Pay attention to relationships and check passions. Understanding racial inequality has helped me understand how little I understand about other types of injustice. It has led me to listen more closely in conversations about ability, economic class, and religious differences. I often find myself realizing that I’ve dismissed or misunderstood someone unintentionally because I lacked understanding of their experience. When this happens, I must ask myself if I’ve prioritized the details of my own identity over someone else’s experience.

Listen more than we speak. When I watched the news break on the Dallas shootings as the only white person in the room, I spent most of the time listening. While I was heartbroken at the unfolding of such events, I also knew that the feelings of the others in the room were far more important than my own. There would be things that I would instinctively interpret through white eyes that wouldn’t be helpful in the situation. Listening allowed me to see through others eyes instead of only seeing through my own.

Look for the core issues instead of taking sides. Ultimately, the faithful know that we must see the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. When we hold the world’s pain with tenderness instead of dismissiveness, with lament instead of blame, with humility instead of pride, we will see the issues as God sees them: filled with compassion, righteous anger, and relentless hope for restoration.


Dear SheLovelys:

  • What would you add to this list?
  • What will you prioritize?
Jody Fernando
I spend many of my moments analyzing college essays, debating the use of semi-colons, or swimming in email; but in real life, I most enjoy sitting by my fireplace with a good poem, sitting near the sea, or going on a walk with loved ones. Sometimes, I write about intercultural life on my blog Between Worlds. I also recently published a book titled "Pondering Privilege: Toward a Deeper Understanding of Whiteness, Race,and Faith."
Jody Fernando
Jody Fernando

Latest posts by Jody Fernando (see all)

Jody Fernando
  • Tim Keller shares wisdom about identity:
    It comes to us in layers. Our race, our profession, our background are all part of it, but for the believer, the bedrock is our relationship with Christ. This is the foundation and should be the most definitive piece of who we are.

    For me, this perspective gave depth to the over-simplified “red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in His sight” creed that we may sing but not practice in our churches.

    • I completely agree, Michele. I think that knowing our foundation in Christ hits at a piece of the core issues I referred to. Sadly, sometimes I see people use this perspective as a way to avoid dealing with issues that need to be faced. Using Jesus like a bandaid by oversimplifying and ignoring issues with statements like “Jesus is the answer” can actually create barricades to racial understanding if we don’t inform our actions knowledge, understanding, and action as well.

      • I see what you’re saying, and am wondering now if this is something that needs to arise from within as we grow further into the heart of Jesus and into the Truth. I’ve experienced the Bandaid-Jesus myself — words that act like strong punctuation to put an end to the sentence.

        • That’s a great way to say it, Michele and a common experience in the race conversation for sure…

  • Helen Louise

    You might wish to read the following article: THE MYTH OF WHITE PRIVILEGE
    BY: SELWYN DUKE | PUBLISHED: 07 30, 2011

    Something must be wrong. My finances are in shambles; mainstream newspapers won’t publish my pieces; and, no matter how much I try to convince Fox News that they need male eye candy as well, they just won’t give me a show. Then I gaze into the mirror at my alabaster complexion and say “What’s wrong with this picture? I’ll have to address this at the next White People’s Meeting.”
    Of course, it isn’t really true that all we Caucasians get together in a big conference hall somewhere and, rubbing our hands together with devilish glee, conspire as to how we’re gonna get ourselves some ‘a that there white privilege. Yet you wouldn’t know it listening to egghead academics, media mouths and uncivil-rights agitators.
    Put “white privilege” into a search engine and no small number of results will be for “.edu” URLs, which means that our mental institutions of higher learning are busy teaching “critical race theory” and ideas such as “Whites are taught not to recognize white privilege” and that, as this University of Dayton site informs, white persons have a “special freedom or immunity from some [liabilities or burdens] to which non–white persons are subject….” There is also something called “The White Privilege Conference” and a website devoted to it (I actually had to log on to make sure it wasn’t a spoof site, but truth is stranger – and stupider – than fiction). And American Thinker recently wrote about an event called “Erasing White Privilege,” during which whites sat around in a room confessing their collective oppressor sins while “people of color” discharged rage, “yelling at them” and “preaching.” Ain’t Obama’s post-racial America grand?

    Of course, I don’t imagine there are many plumbers, supermarket workers or forklift operators at such meetings – and not just because they actually have to work. It’s also because they know something:
    White privilege is a myth.
    Let’s look at the facts. Because of the fashionable discrimination known as affirmative action, whites (males especially) are often untouchables in the job market. And examples are legion. Talk-show host Michael Savage has often mentioned that after he earned his Ph.D., he had trouble finding a job in his chosen field and was told in so many words that “white men need not apply.” I could also mention a junior-high-school friend of mine whose test score was too low to qualify for the specialty high school I attended and the black student who gained admission with the exact same score. Or read this essay by Professor Louis Pojman, who cites the case of a brilliant Ph.D. philosopher who was denied a tenure-track position because the university in question had to hire a “woman or a Black.” Then there is the Dayton, OH, police department, which recently discarded its recruit exam and the scores of 748 people who passed it because not doing so would have resulted in too many whites being hired.

    And there is social discrimination as well. While black comedians can use derogatory terms for whites such as “cracker,” white comedians who use corresponding anti-black racial epithets risk career destruction. And a racial slur isn’t even necessary for a white person to incur the thought police’s wrath. Sportscaster Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder lost his job in the 1980s for, while tipsy at a restaurant, offering an unsophisticatedly stated opinion as to why blacks are great athletes. Even more ridiculous, Washington, DC, mayoral staffer David Howard was pilloried and had to resign his position (he was later rehired) for using the word “niggardly,” which is of Scandinavian origin and means “cheap,” during a staff meeting. Golf commentator Kelly Tilghman was suspended for two weeks for innocently using the term “lynch” when describing what young players might have to do to beat Tiger Woods. And university student Keith John Sampson was charged with “racial harassment” for reading a book about the Ku Klux Klan in the presence of black colleagues. It didn’t matter that it was an anti-KKK book.

    There is also a trove of government programs designed to aid minorities – such as those geared toward minority-owned businesses – but no corresponding help for whites. And, as whistleblowers recently revealed, our Department of Justice has long been ignoring voting-rights cases when the victims have been white.

    This is where the white-privilege propagandists may say, “But, wait, whites are wealthier than other racial groups and occupy most positions of power and prestige. Why do you think that is?!” This is the same reasoning leftists use when claiming that the large number of blacks in prison proves discrimination in the criminal/justice system. But let’s see how valid this circumstantial argument really is.
    The median income of Jewish Americans is approximately twice that of their non-Jewish countrymen. Additionally, while only about 40 percent of high-school graduates attend college, the rate among Jews is 85 percent. Jews also occupy positions of power at a rate greatly in excess of their two percent of the population. Yet should we speak of “Jewish privilege”? It would be more instructive to note a secret of Jewish people’s success: They place great emphasis on education and workplace achievement.
    And what about blacks’ dominance in mainstream sports? Wouldn’t it be ridiculous to talk about “black athletic privilege”?
    Group-specific success isn’t just an American phenomenon, either. As Professor Walter Williams wrote:
    [D]uring the 1960s, the Chinese minority in Malaysia received more university degrees than the Malay majority — including 400 engineering degrees compared with four for the Malays, even though Malays dominate the country politically. In Brazil’s state of Sao Paulo, more than two-thirds of the potatoes and 90 percent of the tomatoes produced were produced by people of Japanese ancestry.
    So while we could prattle on about Chinese privilege in Malaysia or those privileged Japanese boys from Brazil, it would be wiser to accept a simple truth: There is simply no evidence that all groups can succeed equally in every endeavor.
    And this brings us to the real prejudice at work here. Whether it’s Jewish Nobel Laureate winners, blacks in the athletic arena or something else, we generally give credit where it is due.
    Except when the relatively successful group is white people.
    Then they are guilty – of discrimination, oppression and victimization – and will never be proven innocent. Their success just must have come at the expense of others, no matter what the facts say.
    As for oppression, what is the end game here? Many foreign nations have enacted hate-speech laws predicated on the idea that expressing negative sentiments, true or not, about a group can ultimately lead to its persecution. Well, another privilege whites don’t have is a dispensation from the laws of man’s nature. And when they are constantly and unfairly maligned as deserving not their successes but only contempt for being the source of the world’s woes, it’s not hard to figure out what the consequence will be.

    • Out of curiosity, Helen, can you tell me what your social circle is like? Do you have friends from many different racial or economic backgrounds?

      • Helen Louise

        Jody, yes, I do have friends of different racial and/or economic backgrounds. I am what might be called low-middle middle class. I worked in a black school district. I have African American and Asian friends. I would say that half of my African American friends are highly educated and economically middle-high middle class. I also served as a missionary in the Arab/Muslim culture and in France. I was in a mission that represented 17 different nationalities and several races. So I have moved in circles with quite a variety of associations.

        • Helen Louise

          Elizabeth, Hmm! I responded to your questions – perhaps shortly. I didn’t dismiss your point of view or give them a name. Yes, I did cite exceptions and challenged either facts or the broad brush painting of a race. If that’s not engaging, discussing or participating in dialogue, I don’t know what is. Did you engage with me?
          Living in St. Louis and having been in education, I knew Michael Brown attended the high school named the most violent. Even black parents are trying to get their children out of black-majority schools because they are violent and dangerous. I was aware he had a juvenile record, robbed a store, pushed and bullied a clerk in that store, assaulted a police officer trying to snatch his gun and shooting him with it as he did. Even his mother was violent with some of her relatives. Should he have been killed? No. Was he innocent? I’ll leave you and anyone else to sift through that.
          Nothing I have said contradicts what Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
          Once again, no black, white, Asian, Hispanic or anyone else should be judged belonging to a race. Even whites have a right to be judged by the “content of their character” and not the color of their skin. That’s a truth that all deserve.
          I wish you well too. This journey based on race has a long way to travel and many truths and facts to be revealed.

          • Helen, I wonder if you would consider the amount of space you are taking up here? Why is this so important to you, as a white woman?

            When I look at the comments as a whole, you are occupying most of the space. I find that ironic, in a conversation around white privilege. I need you to consider that.

          • Helen Louise

            Idelette, do you ignore I am responding to someone who is asking me questions or challenging different views. Besides, I’m a writer; writers write. But if you stop addressing questions to me, I’ll stop responding.

            Gee whiz! Thought this was to be a blog with exchange of ideas.

          • Helen, do you have your own blog?

          • Helen Louise

            Idelette, No, I do not have a blog of my own. You asked “Why is this so important to you, as a white woman?” Well, first of all the title of the article begins with “White Sisters . . .” Doesn’t that relate to those of us who are white? But my responses have nothing to do with skin color. They have more to do with my faith as a Christian where truth trumps emotions, fictions, myths, fantasies, anything that is not supported by fact, unbiased datum, and the truth that God would also recognize. I often emphasize in writings the balance of truth and love and truth in love.

            Idelette, I am not Catholic, but in the current “Catholic World Report,” there is an article entitled, “Race and Policing in an Era of Moral Equivalence.” It’s a very thoughtful and insightful piece. This statement stands out: “The diminishment of the moral sense in our own society was preceded and, arguably, caused by an increasing obsession with subjective emotional states.”

            We are indeed allowing subjective emotional states to take priority over morality and common decency. That’s a truth I would challenge you women here—red, yellow, black, or white—to consider, seek, research, and embrace.

            I would also encourage you women here to seek the answer of Pilate’s question to Jesus Christ: “What is truth.” I believe you will find truth and emotions, truth and the media reports, truth and the protesters shouts or signs are not always synonymous.

            I will end my response with truth does not diminish love, it does not diminish justice, it does not diminish peace, it does not diminish racial equality or racial reconciliation. It enhances all, it supports all, and it ensures all.

          • Helen Louise

            Idelette, I just learned something today as I research the wives of some of the Reformers. John Calvin’s wife was Idelette de Bure. Is she the source of your given name? Interestingly, my laptop sits on two volumes of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. I had to raise it up someway! 🙂

            Also, for your information, I have written an article, “America in Technicolor–Not Black and White.” I’ve sent it off to several newspapers. Several who have read it responded it needs to be aired. Have a good day. I thought your name was unusual and wondered about it.

    • Sarah JT Bruce

      You do understand that cherry-picking stories and anecdotes does not erase a global trend right? There are individuals, and then there is society. Individuals can have many varied experiences. As an individual, I can interact with society and manage my own situation despite societal problems. Societal problems are solved through institutions (churches, schools, government, non-profits, etc.), not by one individual story at a time.
      The fact that some white individuals are underprivileged and some people of color are privileged does not change the fact that societally, statistically, and undeniably, there are differences in our experiences based on factors we can’t control. Not just race, but physical attractiveness, gender, country of birth, income of our parents… all of these things cause some to start way ahead of others. Doesn’t mean we can’t overcome these obstacles but denying they exist for other people is demeaning and blind.

      • Helen Louise

        Sarah, true. Yes, we can cherry-pick stories and anecdotes. But it is also true that some ideologies are also based on partial or half truths to the extent that they misinform as to the true situation. Anytime a concept or ideology relates to a particular race, it fails to promote truth or fact. In addition, it also tends to cause divisions and even animosities based on misinformation. One can say there are ideologies that are hyperbolic. Then when we state them as fact, we promote consequences that affect relationships with one another in very negative ways. Thankfully, some very thoughtful African Americans have also addressed the issue of “White Privilege” and do not embrace it and, in fact, deny it. Opportunities vary more often on individual circumstances and choices than on a global belief. This country has so many successful African Americans percentage-wise that can be compared to population percentages.

        • Sarah JT Bruce

          I get what you are saying- I think. That voicing something gives it power and entrenches it. That is a danger. However, a white person denying someone’s experiences is equally if not more likely to entrench in them the belief that white people don’t understand, don’t want to understand, and thus don’t care. Denying the problem does not take away its power. Denying peoples’ experience does not make it go away.

          • Helen Louise

            Sarah, Dr. Walter Williams, Ph.D., Economist, African American, has written that “White Privilege” is just another attempt to promote white guilt. White Americans are not a monolithic group. The use of skin color or ethnicity generally stereotypes the whole group. Just as alleged so-called whites must try to be sensitive and understand African Americans and their experiences (which vary from person to person also), so African Americans would also do well to be sensitive to Caucasians and recognize we don’t all have the same experiences, don’t think the same, and don’t behave the same. For some, ethnic background is what binds. For others religious affiliation is what binds. And then for some it’s political positions that bind. All whites aren’t guilty of what has happened to the black race in America or to some blacks. All whites do not experience privilege. Various ethnic groups have had to prove their assimilation before being accepted. One could go on and on. But to speak of “White Privilege” is to stereotype a whole race of people that they do not deserve. African Americans don’t want whites to stereotype them, perhaps Asians don’t want to be stereotyped, nor do Hispanics or others. The point is the usage of a race for a perceived negative position is prejudicial in itself. We all must work diligently at resisting negatives about races other than our own, and that means not promoting a concept or ideology that projects wholesale guilt on another group. I hope I am making sense to you. I have read widely on this subject and thought it through over time. I agree with Dr. Williams, Dr. Thomas Sowell, and other African American thinkers who do not follow the herd and flawed ideologies. .I would never participate in or do the same to African Americans or another race.

          • Hi Helen, Thank you for engaging in conversation today. I was reading up a bit about Dr. Walter Williams a bit and it seems he equates privilege with income. That is certainly not what we are talking about here. I noticed he also thinks global warming is a myth. While I think it’s important that we hear differences in opinion, I have been in a room where we saw white privilege at work and it caused so much pain to several participants who were thankfully aware enough to call it out… We then had to reflect and acknowledge how the power dynamics caused too many people in the room to stay silent. White privilege goes so much deeper than income …

          • Helen Louise

            I don’t think we have read the same article; what I have read has nothing to do with wealth. But he is not alone. As for his position on global warming, there are intelligent scientists on both sides of that debate. There are those who have been in black majority organizations and school districts who would attest to black privilege also. In many school districts, it’s difficult for a Caucasian to be promoted. My main point is any time race or skin color is projected on a whole race in negative stances, it is generally flawed. Think simply of the issue of slavery in America. Most think only of white slave owners and black slaves. But there were thousands of black slave owners over thousands upon thousands of black slaves too. The wealthiest slave owner in Louisiana who had the most slaves and was the wealthiest was a black slave owner. The Cherokee Indians had many black slaves and other Native American tribes had slaves before Europeans arrived and were quite brutal toward them. At one time, there were over 3,000 black slave owners in the city of New Orleans alone. As a result, slavery is thought of by a flawed generalization; slavery is not taught as it really transpired or the races of all parties involved involved. According to the earliest of censuses, the first American slave owner was a black man from Nigeria who brought his slaves with him. Of course, slavery evolved over time and in our laws. The shame and scandal of America.

            This is not to dismiss various incidents of prejudice, but prejudices are practiced by all races towards other races. That does not, however, make the whole race guilty or presume the whole race benefits by such a trait.

          • Helen, can I ask you a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately about my beliefs? Why is it so important to you that this narrative of white privilege be false? I am genuinely curious about where your feelings are coming from and I want to understand. History and race are complicated and there are a lot of views, models, and perspectives held by lots of different people. But you seem very insistent that using a privilege/systemic racism lens must absolutely be false and people who believe the world operates that way must absolutely be wrong. Can I ask why you feel it’s so important not to view the world this way?

          • Helen Louise

            Thanks, Elizabeth, for your comments and question. I would not say it is totally false, but it is not total truth either. For any of us who believe the truths of Scripture as to the presence of God’s image in all as well as the sad and tragic depravity in all, we must be very careful of latching onto ideologies that attempt to broad brush stroke any race or even other groups of people in negative stances. Such attempts are prejudicial in the least and racist in the maximum. If anyone described the black race or the Asian race for instance in much the same manner, it would be called for what it is. Privilege is based more on individual factors, relationships, and opportunities; and all of these vary greatly within the races. Such stances in addition do not promote unity and understanding but rather serve to deepen divisions and resentments. In essence, they do not promote the golden and royal rule of love. Truth and love must go hand in hand and one does not negate the other, but rather they complement each other. For the majority of my life, I have worked toward and defended justice and equality for African Americans recognizing our abysmal history. Today, however, we are seeing the promotion of partial truths, myths, and outright falsehoods directed at many in the white race. I read the article “White Fragility,” and it’s a very sad, unkind portrayal and stereotyping of a whole race of people that is both incredible and outrageous. So many presumptions and assumptions based more on one woman’s opinion than scientific or objective fact.

            When ideologies are promoted, we must be slow and cautious to embrace them. Rather we must weigh and examine them as to validity and truth. We must question, what is their aim, how are they being used to unify or divide people? What are some of the outcomes? Just think of all the African American children growing up presuming and assuming all white children are privileged. Can you imagine the resentment and even the hate encouraged?

            White supremacy was believed and practiced by some whites–not all whites. Didn’t those that resisted it and/or denied it weigh the ideology and found it wanting, false, hateful, racist? That’s how we must weigh all ideologies that paint any one race in a specific manner that encourages the resentment of all others.

            In closing my comments, permit me to tell you that my degree is in Biblical Education, I’ve lived and worked with people from every race under the sun and have been friends with them, I’m a free-lance Christian writer who has been published in both Christian journals and publications as well as in many major national newspapers. One article published by the San Diego Union-Tribune regarding the diversity of people in Africa brought positive responses to me from Africans who couldn’t believe an American wrote that article. I’ve lived and studied in North Africa as well as France. Hopefully, this attests to the broadness of my experiences and points of view.

          • Hi Helen,

            Thanks for taking time to respond. I am sure you do have a broad experience and point of view, and I absolutely respect that. We are all on our own journeys to make sense out of the world based on our experiences. Your passion for your point of view is clearly coming across, and I am sure it is based in reasoned thought and good intentions.

            Reading your comments, and Kia Stephens’ comment as you recommended, it seems like you are trying to make sure people don’t become too one-sided on this issue, blaming all white people for racism and prejudice. In exchange, you suggest a more individual approach, where we fight prejudice in individuals but do not lump people together or examine the impact of systemic problems. If I am reading you right, you are saying that even trying to examine the impact of systems and the role that a particular race of people have played in those systems is divisive. It’s a bit strange, because I appreciate your dedication to analyzing and examining ideologies. But it feels like in many of your comments that you see only the “white privilege narrative” as an ideology, and are not willing to examine the effects of the “colorblind narrative” ideology. There are many, many stories about how this narrative has also been used to silence, harm, and divide.

            It sounds like we have had some similar experiences. I lived overseas for five years and felt what it was like to live in a system that wasn’t designed for me. When I came home, I became chronically ill and discovered some of the systemic factors that make it difficult for voices like mine to be heard in the medical establishment. In my experiences, some problems are individual – hatefulness, prejudice – and others are wider and broader, woven into the fabric of our society. Some we benefit from, some we do not, and I think it’s worth examining those systems.

            So, those are my experiences that have led me here. Would you consider being a bit more open to dialogue in your comments and examining your own ideology as well as ours? This is a point of view that many of us, white and people of color, have found helpful – not as a way to promote hate, but as a way to grow and resolve some of the ills that plague our society. It’s a way of taking responsibility and coming alongside others. Can you be open to that outcome as well as possible negative ones?

          • Helen Louise

            Elizabeth, thank you for your kind response. I appreciate the fact that you captured my intent, that is, not to be completely one-sided, blaming all white people for racism and prejudice. Let’s remember that the issue put forth and promoted was “White Privilege.” And, yes, I do feel it causes more divisiveness, especially when being taught or indoctrinated in children. I am totally aware of our history of the oppression of people of color (several colors). However, a genuine check into history will prove that not all white people were involved in that system. It was promoted by certain parties and individuals while resisted at the same time by the same. Just the history of slavery in America is replete with collusion of races beginning in African lands and tribes all the way to the capturing, trade, selling, and practice of the same even here.
            The ancestors of a majority of Caucasians today were not even here during legalized slavery, were not involved in either enacting or practicing Jim Crow laws, and certainly did not approve of the legalized oppression of one or two races. But whether white or black, Asian, Hispanic, or whatever, the common working or poor people are so tied up with their own survival and families that they do not become involved in issues that do not touch them personally. It’s the same in all races. That does not prove they agree(d) with or approve(d) policies and actions that affected another group of people. Some were perhaps even ignorant of the oppression because they are ignorant of laws and policies.
            With you, I recognize systemic obstructions and prejudices. Nonetheless, only a select elite group of whites were truly the “privileged,” as there are select blacks who are more “privileged” than others. Politics, relationships, religious affiliations, family and connections all factor in to opportunity and privilege.
            Today racist or prejudicial actions are illegal in most, if not all, of our legal systems. Can they be circumvented? Yes. But that’s true in different ways in different groups. Even in black systems, some are more privileged than others based on skin tones or certain associations. These are, unfortunately, facts of life; but they are not representative of a whole race of people or everyone in that race.
            Another fact seldom taken into consideration is that to a great degree Caucasians do not relate to one another based solely on race. Ethnicity, religion, politics, education and other factors play a much greater role. Even our religious institutions reflect different classes of people.
            As for the relationships of blacks with police officers, I fear and agree something is afoot there. At the same time, each individual case must be judged on evidence and its own merits. Many whites experience some of the same treatment, but there is more shame involved with altercations with the law and, therefore, family, friends, and community do not rise up. It’s seen more as an individual altercation and shame.
            But back to my basic contention, which is we must be very cautious, careful, even hesitant to broad brush a whole race of any people where the facts do not support the way they are being painted.
            I’m open to examining my own ideology, but I feel my ideology relates to being fair to all—blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics, etc. I would and have heartily disagreed with broad brush strokes used on or against blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Muslims, and more. I firmly embrace equality and justice for all. I believe we will more readily achieve that by promoting what we have in common and integrating more with each other. Some of the younger ones are achieving this well.
            I grew up during World War II and remember how there was such a hatred of all Japanese. They were not all responsible for what their leaders believed or did, as we weren’t all responsible for some policies that perhaps forced their hand. I look back and see how much hatred was taught, indoctrinated in us as children and how utterly horrible and wrong it was. That was the result of broad brush strokes and painting a whole race of people.
            I hope I have clarified or explained my heart’s concern in this regard. We can help one another and other without demeaning ourselves or the group from which we come. These groups we all belong to are out of our control. I recommend a very simple adjective to modify races of people in such cases, and that word is “some,” some whites, some blacks, some Asians, some Hispanics, etc., etc.

          • Hi again Helen,

            I don’t think you actually answered my questions but instead just repeated your same talking points. That makes it hard to have a discussion. My questions were – are you willing to examine your own ideology (the colorblind narrative) as well as ours (the systemic privilege narrative)? And are you at all willing to be open to the potential for positive outcomes from the systemic privilege narrative? Or are you totally committed to there only being negative outcomes?


          • Helen Louise

            Elizabeth, I thought I answered your question as to being open to examining my ideology. You might not have seen it as an answer, but it was my answer. It was yet and related to ensuring fairness to all.

            As to positive outcomes of the systemic privilege narrative, there have been great strides made in this area. We all would have to measure the overall weight of the positives vs. the negatives to decide how fair and just such a narrative is or would be long-term. Once again, whenever any whole race is depicted by broad brush strokes, the vastly diverse and individual character traits, experiences, attitudes and more that make up that race fall prey to an accepted hollowness and/or unreality.

            One last factor related to the article itself. It refers to shootings of “innocent” black men. They and others were involved in complex accelerated altercations. They certainly didn’t deserve to die, but were they “innocent” as someone walking down the street minding his own business and being shot down would be? Some of the facts have surfaced that do not support complete “innocence,” but rather risky behaviors and/or lawbreaking. Just as the police risk their lives every day, certain behaviors or conduct entail risk as well. Black parents aren’t alone in talking to their children. Parents of all colors have such talks with their young children, especially their boys. But that is another subject. Facts and emotions are not always on a level playing field. There are many others of other races who have suffered the same fate in their altercations with the police and even outnumber the former.

            These, as previous comments, aren’t talking points. They’re spontaneous responses that come from observation, history, experiences, and broad reading.

            There was a certain exhilaration when movies advanced from black and white to Technicolor. The day America and Americans recognize we aren’t basically black and white, but rather a beautiful Technicolor array of individuals, the closer to peace and unity we will achieve.

          • Hi Helen,

            By talking points, I meant that you keep repeating your point of view and your interpretations of these ideas without actually engaging with mine. That doesn’t make for a very good discussion, so I’m going to stop following this conversation. I wish you the best on your journey.


          • Helen Louise

            Also, Elizabeth, I would highly recommend reading Kia Stephens comment in the previous article, “Picking up the trash of White Supremacy.” She is African American and brings wisdom to the discussion.

          • Helen Louise

            Elizabeth, just wondering. Did any of my response satisfy your question or even your understanding?

          • Sarah JT Bruce

            What makes you think that acknowledging white privilege means white people are supposed to feel guilty? I have never been told that i should feel guilty for being white, nor do I. Why would I? I didn’t choose it. Instead, I feel grateful that I don’t have to worry about my three sons being perceived as a threat before they have done a single thing. I feel grateful about a number of benefits I was born with that I had no control over that have been blessings to me. I don’t feel guilty for any of them, including being white.

            Is there a particular African American you are referring to when you say they would do well to be sensitive to Caucasians? Do you think there is a monolithic group of African Americans who think that all white people are the same, have the same experiences, think the same and behave the same?

            Did someone tell you to feel guilty about what has happened to the black race? I think you are making things about you that are not about you. If someone says, “White people are terrible and treat me badly and keep my people down,” fine, disagree; get offended. That would be an unfair stereotype. But if someone says that there are privileges to being white in America, that in no way says something negative about you, nor is it a stereotype. It is simply a generalization of verifiable and obvious facts. Like, ‘women are shorter than men’. Some women are clearly taller than some men. However, each individual woman, were she a man, would probably be taller. Even if there is a case where that is not true, it doesn’t negate the generalization.

            By the way, the fact that there some black people who agree with you does not give your position any more validity.

          • Helen Louise

            Sarah, it was an African American who said that is the goal. I’m not going to get into a debate with you here. There are those in certain sectors of the black community and leadership who do promote that most white people are evil and blame all white people for what some have done. I doubt you will admit or agree to this. But it’s out there and not a few thoughtful African Americans recognize it and speak out against it. The fact that there is greater integration of the races today has allowed many on both sides to overcome their prejudices. The manner in which you have expressed your questions and convictions is evident nothing will be gained by going back and forth in this blog. I remain convinced of what I have observed over the years, have read and heard from African Americans and their publications. If the modifier of the word “some” were added before “white(s),” then the stereotype would be removed. Goodnight.

          • Sarah JT Bruce

            No problem. I appreciate the friendly dialogue. 🙂

  • Jamie

    Jody, thanks for this post and the great suggestions for action at the bottom. I think this is so important and I will be sharing it.

    • Thanks, Jamie!

  • alison hill

    I do believe we should all listen. That we all need to acknowledge others experience and invest in one another in a individual relational way. I don’t think your thoughts were any less important than anyone else in the room, just a different angle. To place yourself as not as important doesn’t make sense to me. As humans we should be able to grieve at the injustice of all equally as well. 5 policemen murdered , regardless of color is grief. 2 men murdered by policemen, regardless of color is grief . Just as the Dallas shooter doesn’t represent an entire group of people, neither do the guilty policeman. Intelligent people understand this. They also understand there are a percentage of their group that made the stereotype. I’m from Alabama , I get why I am dismissed as a redneck at times. I don’t like it but I live and prove them wrong. As do so many others who live on love and above the label the percentage has given. But I understand where the conclusions come from, the worst of my group, race, gender, coutry, sport etc get the attention and the media is guilty of seeking it out.

    • Thanks for sharing, Alison. I agree, and do grieve the injustice of everyone who died last week. What I mean when I say that my thoughts are less important is that, as a white person, I haven’t walked the path of fearing my life if I am pulled over by a police man. Instead, I’m quite accustomed to my voice being heard and acknowledged. It is a spiritual discipline for me to practice silence of opinion in racial conversations because it allows people to be heard who have traditionally been silenced. It also reminds me that my perspective is not the only or most important one, so I practice silence as an act of humility. After a lifetime of living in the white majority, I need these reminders as frequently as possible.

  • Timely words. Thanks for being brave and speaking up.

    We need our white sisters to rally.

  • Helen Louise

    If we consider all the successful African Americans, Asians, etc. in our society, I think we need to be careful of accepting only one race has privilege. We have had two African American Secretaries of State (bear in mind the African American population is small in comparison to other races). We now have a bi-racial President. We have not a few black representatives and senators. Focusing on privilege by one race might do more harm and good by dividing unnecessarily Christian women. I have worked for several African American men and women. They were better off financially than what I was. So I didn’t experience any particular privilege and it was a privilege for me to work for them and to do my best to assist their successes.

    • Hi Helen, One of the ways I’ve struggled to understand privilege is that I frequently view situations through an individual instead of communal lens. This means that I instinctively focus on individual stories over communal stories. I think your comment reflects the same lens. What I have learned along the way is that privilege is about systems, not individuals. When we process events through a communal lens, it looks different…for example, why are 25% of police shootings african american males when only make up 14% of the total population? Why haven’t we had more than 3 African American politicians in senior level positions? Why are 98% of the portraits in the Capital Building of white men when slaves also built our country? What can attest for the dire difference in income and education levels of African American and Latinos? We can all tell stories of successful individuals, but the big picture also tells a story that we should not hide from.

      With regards to everyone having privilege, I agree! This reflects the concept of intersectionality that I mentioned in the article…our privileges intersect and overlap. This doesn’t mean that privilege doesn’t exist, just that we need to face it for what it is and acknowledge how it impacts our thinking and our systems. That’s the call of this article…for white women to face the dynamics of topics we may tend to avoid because we don’t understand them well enough.

      • Helen Louise

        I believe you will even find African Americans who do not embrace the “white privilege” moniker. That is pushed to quite a degree by both liberals and certain militant African Americans. As to the police shootings. There may be some based on race, but the fact is that for a small percentage of the population, the crime rate is higher in the African American community than most. Those shootings are involved where weapons were in use, crimes being committed, and noncompliance with officers.

        I only mentioned three top or senior level positions for African Americans; there are many more. But there are others as well, Supreme Court judge, military officers, cabinet members, etc.

        Did slaves build this country? That’s not quite true. They were mostly on plantations in the South and in certain industries, such as cotton, rice, etc. I believe our history will show that many immigrants built this country. But one would have to study all the achievements, the planners, etc. to even begin to breakdown who did what. Think of the Chinese workers and the railroads.

        Differences in income and education levels. The breakdown in the black family, i.e., single-parent homes with many children and different fathers have affected opportunities for success. The same is true in any group of people where this happens. You will find high educational achievements in African American homes where two parents support and encourage their children or a single parent has only one child to help and encourage. Before the welfare system became what it is today, African American homes were at the same percentage of two-parent homes that Caucasian families were.

        This is not to dismiss or deny prejudices or racism and obstacles to overcome, but they are not what they have been in the past. Of all racial groups in the U.S., the crime rate is highest in the black community, and that’s a hardship on so many in that community.

        Privilege is related more to class and connections than to race. We must always be cautious in swallowing agendas and their mottos that pit one group against another. Why do Asians appear to outpace both blacks and whites in education? It’s family, discipline, and support.

        • In spite of your expression to the contrary, Helen, it seems that you are most interested in arguing your point. My only response is to reference back to my the point I made in my article about the need for us to listen more than we speak, especially to those with whom we disagree. From my perspective, that would be an especially helpful stance for you right now. It sounds like you only want to listen to carefully chosen voices who agree with you.

          For the silent observers of this conversation who don’t know what to say, I will note that this is an excellent example of what Dr. Robin DiAngelo calls “White Fragility”. You can read more about it here: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/white-fragility-why-its-so-hard-to-talk-to-white-people-about-racism-twlm/.

          • Helen Louise

            Jody, that’s quite a strong judgment on someone you don’t know personally, someone who cited African American historians as to the history of slavery in the United States, and even cited an African American’s viewpoint of “White privilege.” From a very young age, I supported vocally, personally, and financially civil rights for my African American brothers and sisters. They’ve been in my home and I in their’s. My heritage goes back to a great, grant grandfather who was Lincoln’s law partner and a very strong abolitionist, William H. Herndon. I lost a position and salary for speaking up on behalf of an African American coworker who was being unjustly treated and who came to me in tears for help. I’m a Christian who sees the image of God in everyone as well as the depravity of mankind in all races. But we can’t discuss race here if someone’s learning and knowledge goes beyond the strongest rhetoric today? So I’ll accept your judgment in the comfort that the One and only One Who knows our hearts sees what you cannot see.

          • Helen Louise

            This 13-year old young black thinker speaks of “white fragility”: https://youtu.be/UnEqk2uKkQU

          • Helen Louise

            I prefer to listen to African Americans:


          • I prefer to a majority of African-American voices + the voices of our friends and not the voices you keep pointing to.

            Helen, you are monopolizing this conversation and not acting in disregard of the very thing we are calling for.

            You are not speaking for our African-American friends. So, please stop saying that you are.

          • Helen Louise

            Idelette, I don’t believe I claimed to be speaking for African Americans or whites specifically or on behalf of African Americans on this issue. Some of us are simply trying to address facts however they fall. How does one dominate a conversation when responding to either comments or questions addressed to her? The unwelcome mat is clear.

          • Helen Louise

            Let history speak:


            Truth is not against love and love is not against truth. Truth and love complement each other and support what is accurate and right.

        • Cathy Parham

          Hi Helen.
          I would like to weigh in on your outlook. If you don’t mind.

          • Helen Louise

            Go ahead. I hope I’ve shown it’s not personally my outlook, but also the outlook of others, including African Americans.

          • You are speaking on behalf of African-American voices. Please stop.

          • Helen Louise

            Waiting for what you wish to communicate. The above is two sentences only.

  • That last one – looking at core issues rather than taking sides – is the one that’s the hardest for me yet the one that will bring about reconciliation. It’s so easy to plant my feet on one side and know that I am right. And yet…. What is the root? How do we move forward? What are small things I can do right now? Thank you for this call to action and for some concrete ways of shifting my thinking.

    • Thanks, Annie. “What is the root – of both my own resistance or the anger of others?” is a question I frequently ask myself as well… It helps me especially when I find myself reacting to a situation or unable to understand a perspective different than mine.

  • Thank you for your thoughtful article, Jody. I’m working on listening more and more and more … I have much to learn.

  • Nichole Bilcowski Forbes

    Thank you Jody. I felt like I’ve sat for a week with a world of brokenness, confusion and hurt in my lap and no idea of what to do about it. This piece has given me some things to think about as I try to continue to listen deeply to the things I do not readily understand

  • Hosea Long

    There’s an old adage that goes something like… to understand another man, you have to walk in his shoes. I’ve always felt that I can never walk in another person’s shoes, but I can walk beside them, listen to them, do whatever I can to understand their lot. This piece supports that idea. I agree completely.