The Privilege of Staying Out of Politics

Yesterday, a dear friend of mine shared her reflections on Charlottesville and the aftermath—and they were revelatory about the dilemma that privilege provides those of us who are both blessed and burdened with it.

While she openly admitted that racism was still a sickening reality in our country, she did wonder aloud why people of color couldn’t simply “walk away” from expletive-throwing bigots they encountered and why they seemed obsessed with memorials to the distant past to begin with.

“I try and stay out of all of that craziness.” she said. “I just think people on both sides get all too worked up over monuments and things like that. I just think we should stop with all the social media posts and all the protesting and just love each other.” She expressed fatigue at her social media feed and contemplated turning it all off.

Though she struck a far more compassionate and conciliatory tone on the matter than our current President, her comments were frighteningly similar to his statements, which placed culpability for the violence in Virginia and elsewhere on “hatred from both sides.”

I could see in her eyes that she was sincere in her incredulity at the discord.
I could sense that she genuinely was grieved by it all.
I could tell that she’d decided not to enter into the fray of argument and activism.
And I knew that the option of this emotional and physical distance was evidence of her privilege. She and I share this affliction.

In moments like these, when people’s basic civil rights hang in the balance, when their inherent worth is being contested, when bigotry again rears its head and launches an assault on a marginalized community—those not among that community have a choice of either engaging the oppressors or ignoring them. This decision is itself a luxury afforded by our pigmentation and position. It’s a perk that comes without us asking for it or being aware of it—and one we need to use wisely. 

I know many people like my friend. They’re otherwise decent, responsible, good-hearted men and women, who don’t realize how insulated they are from the kind of fear and threat that people of color, the LGBTQ community, Latinos, or Muslims experience as a working reality—and this insulation gives makes inaction tempting, especially when moving into the fray invites such conflict. That we feel a choice in these moments is even possible, shows the subtle and insidious ways privilege works. It allows us to have urgency as an option—where for others it is a necessity. Some people are fighting for their very lives, and the idea that they could or would opt-out isn’t a consideration. It shouldn’t be an option for any of us if we claim humanity as precious.

There are days when I feel my own white comfort creeping in. When I find myself overwhelmed or disheartened by the steady stream of horrible news parading in front of me, when the collateral damage of the fight feels too great and I’d rather turn it all off for a few days and just “live my life.” It’s a reflex action that I’d have justified a couple of years ago, but now I know better. Now I know that this is my privilege on full display, providing a buffer that were I too indulge it, could keep me cloistered away in a cozy little Caucasian cocoon where activism is an elective endeavor, saved for those moments when I’m okay being inconvenienced with it.

Now I fight that instinct when it comes, because I know that many people don’t get to choose neutrality in matters of justice. They don’t get to decide to ignore the events of the day or to sidestep the difficult conversations or to avoid walking into the streets and braving taunts and threat. Some people do this as a matter of daily survival, and if I am to even come close to living in any kind of solidarity with them, I need to be as internally burdened to action as they are. I have to be willing to feel even some momentary, infinitesimal measure of the urgency they live every second with.  

Friend, if things are too messy, too turbulent, too unsettling for you right now, and you feel like you just want to ignore it all—realize that you are fortunate to have such a luxury. Be grateful that you even feel you have a choice in the matter; whether to be in the trenches or to stay out of harm’s way.

Privilege will always try to tempt you out of activism and into passivism, and it will always lure you into the safe and away from the messy.

For the sake of those who don’t have a choice—refuse to let it. 

Order John’s book, ‘A Bigger Table’ here.






68 thoughts on “The Privilege of Staying Out of Politics

  1. This is right on for me. I am choosing to move and have started having conversations that include the risk of being rejected by those of my own tribe who are not yet compelled to act. We must support one another in this transition. I am glad to see, from the people I am in conversation with, a growing number that have entered the fray and are willing to join Christ as the “first become last and the last become first”. Thank you for you voice. When you make me uncomfortable, I will own my own need to be uncomfortable as I find my place in the transformation of my world into what my Christ call us too.

    • George Fuller Jr wrote, ” When you make me uncomfortable, I will own my own need to be uncomfortable as I find my place in the transformation of my world into what my Christ call us too.”

      Thank you for writing this. As I read John’s prophetic words spoken with his gift of exhortation, I often see them as a mirror held up before his readers. We can either like or dislike the reflection we see.

      All too often, when we dislike what we see in the mirror, we react in a knee-jerk manner. Because we are in discomfort, we blame John P for causing it, rather than asking ourselves if we need to feel that discomfort, if that discomfort is the action of the Holy Spirit calling us to some other mode of being.

  2. If only there were more people like you, did, more people more driven to shuck their comfort zones and actively endeavour to make the world a better place.

    Thank you for this. Thank you for being the you that has refused to be neutralised by your privilege.

    • Walter wrote, “Thank you for being the you that has refused to be neutralised by your privilege.”

      Many years ago now when I was at my first college and the black power movement was in its infancy and SNCC its voice, I approached the man we called Rap. H. Rap Brown was the national head of SNCC and our Rap headed up the campus’ branch. I told him I wanted to help because I was sickened by bigotry, discrimination, and racism.

      “You can’t,” he said to me forcefully. “You’re white and you can’t be trusted. You can always sell us out.”

      Deeply confused and hurt, I walked away, not understanding why I had been rejected. In fact, I am ashamed to say, it took me a very long time to understand what he was telling me because back in the day we didn’t use the words “white privilege” but the moment I first heard that phrase, I finally understood what Rap had told me all those years ago.

      With Rap’s words ringing in my years all these decades, I have come to accept that if we are white in the USA we are racists. We are not born that way, but we are taught it even as babies encountering the world.

      The besetting sin of the USA is racism. It is as much ingrained in our national identity as is protest. Colonial America embraced racism. The Founding Fathers allowed it. The USA has enculturated racism to such a degree that it is truly hard for white people to comprehend.

      One way and perhaps the only way we can grasp it is to embrace the experience of our non-white brothers and sisters and listen to them attentively. Let us hear the voices of Native Americans, the first victims of our racism because they were in our way. Let us hear the voices of our black brothers and sisters. Let us hear the voices of our Asian and Middle Eastern brothers and sisters.

      Let us absorb what they have to say. Let their words and their experiences get deep within us and let us be changed by it.

  3. Every single word John P writes here is true.

    If you disagree with it, it’s because you are in denial about your white privilege. It makes us think we are entitled to think something is “not my problem or “I get too angry when I think about it.” That is white privilege talking, that is the privilege of being straight talking.

    We straight whites need to educate ourselves, open ourselves up to the experience of others in our world. What doesit mean to be a person of color in a world of white privilege? What does it mean to be an LGBT in a straight world?

    Most of all, how do we work together to eliminate bigotry, homophobia, prejudice, racism from our world and embrace our neighbor as the people it delighted God to create exactly as they are.

    I would love to see in the comments a discussion of how we can bring this about, but I daresay we will see the polemic we have all begun to expect. John P will be attacked. Some of us will agree with John and be attacked. Some of us will write in such a passive-aggressive manner that it will be hard to know what they are saying.

  4. John, I feel sadness for anyone who has such blinders on. As a woman, does she not realize our history? Women died so she could vote. America’s history has shown a constant thread of racism and bias even against other white people. Instead of the voices of racism and bias losing strength they have once again been allowed to scream their racism and bias in our streets and have expressed their thanks to our President without rebuttal. The original KKK and Nazi’s had murder in their hearts. To continue their legacy even by honoring their name means you align yourself with the killing of innocents. Murder should not have a voice in this country.
    No one should get such a pass when they know better.

  5. The Bible is Real Clear on Racism and Truth
    We , you and me were all created equally in Gods Image
    Well then Sin entered in to the world of our lives, became a part of of inward characteristic and then began to dictate how , why, what we should think , act , and do .
    Well that being said
    God is waiting for All who have Fallen to come Back.
    That thing you try to pin on one group , person, or another , and the sin that is pointed at each other
    That is YOU and Me
    We , YOU and me are RACIST by nature.
    If Not for Gods love , forgiveness, change in our lives , YOU , Me , All would be the same.
    The only way to fix this Racism Problem is thru a accountable relationship with YOUR True father
    God and that can only be accomplished thru a right relationship with jesus christ the sin atonement for each and everyone
    With out this There is NO hope
    YOU and I are racist, selfish, self seeking, and Proud
    Arrogant , Fools
    If you go into any neighborhood out there , anywhere . and your the stand out , the only different person in the crowd , black, white, asian, etc
    YOU will see this.
    Open YOUR eyes , see that the news is 1/2 truths and sell s thier own agendas , likes, persuasions
    Common Sense
    The human Condition with out Jesus Christ at the Center
    God is left OUT
    That is why!

    • I know you think sermons like this are helpful, Christopher—but they’re not. You”re preaching at people instead of listening to them, talking with them. You’re not giving anyone compelling reason to seek God. I would rethink your approach.

      • Except that Christopher’s “sermon” actually comes from biblical teaching whereas your article is opinion based on an entirely man-mind phenomenon “white privilege”. Debate all you want about the realities of white privilege in American society, but to suggest that the gospel message isn’t relevant or compelling to people’s circumstances today is idiotic.

        • I like Christopher’s point of view, which always points to JESUS & the freedom that comes from Him.

          I agree with Christopher, succumbing to Got’s word & Embracing Truth, lifts one out of the bondage that the broad path (chasing Self) brings.

        • the gospel message isn’t relevant. religion is a cancer.

          Interesting that you chide John’s view as being from “opinion” and elevate Christopher’s as being from scriptural teaching as if there was anything empirical that elevated spiritual belief beyond a subjective opinion.

          Here’s mine – God is dead.

          • Beautifully said, Shades. One nit-picking point I would argue though since gods don’t exist, that hideously vindictive, atrociously capricious, curmudgeonly narcissistic, guilt trip laying, fictitious genocide-toad, YHWY, can’t technically be dead.


            Seriously, I love the ideals of Pastor John and other progressive Christians… not in spite of them TOTALLY blowing off the Old Testament, but precisely BECAUSE they TOTALLY blow it off… If they think their beautiful moral sense comes from a 2000-year-old, apocalyptic, liberal, anti-establishment Rabbi who ministered in some backwater Mideastern province of the Roman Empire, and not from the fact that they’re just good human beings, then so be it. Who cares if people believe that the causal arrow points from the ideals of Rabbi Yeshua bar Joseph toward being a decent person rather than vice versa…i.e. being a being a decent person necessitated a Jesus-like figure to reform the religion of YHWY (and package it up for export)… as if religions like Jainism and Buddhism never existed and didn’t pre-date Christianity by ~500 years (talk about a huge Western entitlement and cultural bias, btw). Anyway, just don’t cram that superstition my down kids’ throat or try to teach them kreeayshun “science”/intellijunt deeesyn and I am super cool with progressive Christianity.

  6. John, your post today is very important. I am a black woman with an autistic son, living in the South where I was born and raised. To those who feel that this is an “all sides” problem, I only have one question: Are you suggesting that simply out of ignorance or apathy?
    My family and I have no choice but to live, and love, the skin we’re in, in spite of those who wish to subjugate us. We dont want notincite violence. It’s very easy to sit on your home, chastising people for exercising their human rights, but offer no action of your own to demand equality for all beyond half-hearted platitudes.
    Until we start to see white children killed with impunity by police, you’ll never fully understand what its like being black in America. Until the opioid epidemic is treated like the 80s crack epidemic, white ppl will never be able to understand systemic inequality.
    And until black women, over which 94% voted to try and keep us from being in this situation politically, are treated with civility and given the same opportunities as our white counterparts, FROM OUR WHITE COUNTERPARTS, then this will only get worse.

    • Shantell K wrote, ” I only have one question: Are you suggesting that simply out of ignorance or apathy?”

      Thank you for your question. Speaking as a white woman of a certain age, I have to say a great many white people in the USA are blisteringly ignorant and embrace their ignorance and there are also a great many of us who are apathetic. There are also those who do so out of fear because they do believe what they were taught: anyone with a different colored skin is going to harm them.

      Then there are those people who have reached a certain age who after decades of fighting the good fight are throwing up their hands in frustration because of the commitment to ignorance and apathy. They are exhausted with trying to make a difference.

      Please understand, I am not trying to excuse them, merely explain them. Trump’s election and the triumph of the GOP last November was a staggering blow. So many of us thought that when Obama was elected that it was a sign that the USA had finally grown up, finally put the ugliness of racism behind us.

      What a revelation it was to see the bigots of the GOP shake off their political correctness and reveal the true festering rot of racism. And so many people have given up in despair.

      What I say is this: a minority elected Trump. Almost half of registered voters didn’t vote. Of those who did, the majority voted for Hillary. However the Electoral College, an organization formed to protect slavery, voted Trump into office.

      What I also say is this: we do not fight good fight alone, we do it as a community. What I say is this: we do not fight the good fight from our own selves. we fight the good fight with the full armor of God because Jesus tells us the Kingdom of Heaven is right here in our midst and it is all about social justice as well as repentance. Indeed, evidence of our repentance is found in our actions for social justice.

      We white people confront our racism with God’s help because it is the Godly thing to do.

      • Hillary Clinton received 48.5% of the vote share. That’s not a majority. More people voted against her than for her. Of course the same can be said of Trump, but he campaigned wisely by state, and won the vast majority of the votes that count the most. Hillary’s huaghty “it’s in the bag” attitude also cost her. Served her right.

  7. John, This article is why I am grateful for your voice. I have struggled for some time with the desire to shut out the horrible things going on in the world as being two sides fighting and we need Jesus or what can I do to make a difference but then someone reminded me there is no true peace until all people are safe and fed and tucked into their beds at night.

    As well for anyone who think Antifa is only a counter protest look again at what they are really doing. They are putting their bodies on the line against evil. They are making a physical commitment to be a barrier against the white supremacist mob who wants to eradicate and remove people of colour from America. That is what the are attempting and that is a noble cause.

  8. “Friend, if things are too messy, too turbulent, too unsettling for you right now, and you feel like you just want to ignore it all—realize that you are fortunate to have such a luxury. ”


    Succinctly brilliant per norm, Pastor

  9. I had an epiphany last night as I was falling asleep. It wasn’t a nice epiphany. Let me start:
    I was born and spent the first 11 years of my life in segregated Louisiana learning all about the hero Robert E. Lee and how the War Between the States was fought for states rights. Since then I have lived in North Dakota, on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana. I lived in San Diego when I graduated from high school, met my first husband a couple of years later. He was from Wolf Point and was in San Diego while in the Navy. We were both too young and too ignorant on how much we each needed confirmation of who we were. We separated when I was four months pregnant and I returned to San Diego and my safe place. I lived in San Diego during the ’60s and the civil rights movement. I was a “vocal” defendant of the need for desegregation and all that it supported. In the early ’70s I remarried and during the ’70s lived for a year and a half in Athens, GA, six and a half years in Miami, FL. We were in Miami during the Mariel boat lift and during the Liberty City riots. We moved next to Houston, TX, for eight months and then to Los Angeles, CA, for the next 12 years. We lived in LA during the riots. During all this time I’ve considered myself very non-racist. Last night I realized I had retained a very deep untruth as a part of my beliefs about the South.

    I want to make clear that this epiphany came about BECAUSE I’ve been reading the posts and comments on not only this site but others as well. Last night I realized that the first time I read that Robert E. Lee was a traitor to our country and that all who fought for the Confederacy were traitors. My heart stopped. Noooooo. Not traitors. I was confronted with a truth that I had not realized denied my thought that I was a COMPLETE non-racist.

    I then realized that I have been very privileged to have had the life experiences I have had that allowed me to confront this part of my past that needed to be faced. Then I started to wonder about all the Southerners who have lived for generations with these untruths and no experience of any other truth. They are not going to be brought to epiphanies of their own by us shouting at them and calling them names. I’m not suggesting a solution because I don’t have one. I think that those like the young Black farmer in Charlottesville who wrote his story need to have those stories publicized and distributed all around the US by all kinds of media — books, social media, newspapers, and TV news channels.

    Anyway, John, I’m sorry your friend doesn’t want to read about the confrontation with ourselves we’re facing in this nation right now. We need everyone to join us in learning who we are and who we can be.

    As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and they is us.”

    • Kathleen Dale wrote, “Anyway, John, I’m sorry your friend doesn’t want to read about the confrontation with ourselves we’re facing in this nation right now. We need everyone to join us in learning who we are and who we can be.”

      Kathleen, thank you for bravely sharing your epiphany. I hope you were able to sleep well after it.

      I’ve had a similar epiphany and it too jolted me out of my comfort zone. I rejoice and thank God for bringing to my attention the sin in which I have unknowingly been a participant, for no other reason than I have white skin. I can’t help having white skin, but as a thinking adult, it is my responsibility to face up to the ramifications of having white skin.

      That is what John P’s friend is missing. That being a white-skinned person in the USA has ramifications, just as being a person of color has its ramifications.

  10. John, while I don’t agree with this piece, I did find it interesting. I’m on my way to Switzerland, so I guess I’m privileged. 🙂

  11. Dear John Pavlovitz:

    Can we discuss privilege and not address wealth?
    Or does wealth reveal our real prejudice?

    Racism is evil.
    People of good character oppose it.

    But when will wealth
    get a fraction of the traction
    like racism or social rights
    that we redress so quickly?

    – For years, the Swiss branch of HSBC [Europe’s largest bank] offered money laundering tax evasion for wealthy clients, and the US/UK/French governments systematically covered for it.

    – Gabriel Zucman [Berkeley] showed that the super-rich evade taxes so adeptly, that official stats drastically underestimate global wealth inequality. The top .01% hides some 25% or more of their wealth.

    – In 2016, the combined wealth of those on Forbes’ billionaires list rose 18 percent to $7.67 trillion, more than the gross domestic product of all but the wealthiest of the world’s countries.

    The beneficiary is the socio-economic class that gave us Flint, in the Grenfell Tower massacre, and condemns many thousands to early deaths through lack of health care to cut taxes for the wealthy while sending youths to endless wars.

    Where is the outrage?
    When will we address wealth as social privilege?
    Could it be that money reveals our real prejudice?


    • gdd, I have the pdfs of three articles in which you might be interested, published by the Jubilee Group of the UK, Anglican socialists.

      I don’t know how to get them to you. If you use Facebook, you could private message me with your email address and I could email them to you.

      Alternatively, these documents may also be found in the files of Gloriamarie’s Progressive Stuff, but you would have to join that group and answer the question that screens out spammers and trolls. The link to that group is

      The articles are “To the Fathers They Shall Go: Wealth and Poverty in Early Christian Thought” by Fr. Clive Barrett; “Til All Be Held in Common” by Fr. Kenneth Leech; and “Revolution Elsewhere” by Aurelio Orensanz.

      I have been looking for these for a goodly number of years, as well as other publications of the Jubilee Group and finally found a library in Chicago which has them. They are no longer under copyright and a gracious librarian has scanned them. She is going to scan a whole bunch more of them for me when the back to school furor is over.

      Of course, anyone who read this is also welcome to PM me on FB and send me your email address if you would like to read them. Or you may join Gloriamarie’s Progressive Stuff and download them from the files.

  12. Pingback: A Christian Pastor Just Destroyed America’s White Privilege Over Confederate Statues

  13. This says it all. When people I know whine about the “myth of white privilege,” this is exactly how I respond. It’s so very easy to say “But I’m not privileged. I WORK for everything I have. I went to school/worked my way up, and no one ever gave me anything.” But these people are missing the point; they had chances many people of color never got. I like to use a simplistic analogy. My daughter is now 28. When she was a teenager, she enjoyed the mall like any other girl. No security guards ever followed her around a store, suspicious that she was there to steal. One tiny example of the challenges people of color face every day. I cringe if I see a cop behind me, but my thought is “I don’t want a ticket,” not “Please don’t let him kill me.”

    • Teddy Gingerich wrote, “But these people are missing the point; they had chances many people of color never got. ”

      That is indeed the very crux of the matter. No one sees a white person walking around a parking lot and wonders “is that white person going to attack me?”

      No white person is going to assume a cop might shoot them although sad to say if we are women we do worry if the cop will rape us when we are stopped. It has happened.

      When someone calls me out for exercising my white privilege, I may be embarrassed but I am also thankful to have my eyes opened to what I can’t see in myself.

  14. Thank you, this is very true. I would add that many Jews feel this way too, that we are being once again threatened in the US and can’t avoid the struggle – in addition to the need for those of us who are white also to challenge our own privilege and inclination to want to retreat from working against racism.

    • Rebecca Lesses wrote. “I would add that many Jews feel this way too, that we are being once again threatened in the US and can’t avoid the struggle …”

      Yes, when white supremacists and the neo-Nazis take aim, they are not only bigots and racists but also anti-Semitic.

      And, of course, anyone from the Near or Middle East is in danger. Arab Christians have been victims of hate crimes because they were Arab and the white supremacists “Christians” could only see skin color, not Jesus, in their faces.

    • Rebecca, I just saw this article and immediately thought of you. I think this is a brilliant idea.

      Lawyers start brilliant ‘Adopt-a-Nazi’ campaign to troll white supremacist rally
      Their GoFundMe has already amassed more than $92,000 in donations.
      AUG 22, 2017,

      A group of Jewish lawyers in San Francisco has discovered a clever new way to fight white supremacy: adoption.

      Of course, the Jewish Bar Association isn’t actually encouraging anyone to adopt or sponsor white supremacists. Instead, the group is asking the public to donate to its “Adopt-a-Nazi (Not Really)” GoFundMe campaign, which is being used to raise funds for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit legal advocacy organization that monitors hate groups across the country and litigates on behalf of marginalized groups. So far, the campaign has raised more than $92,000—far beyond its original goal of $10,000.

      The strategy is simple: according to the GoFundMe page, donors are encouraged to give some amount of money for each of the 300 expected attendees at an upcoming “free speech” rally put on by the right-wing Patriot Prayer group at Crissy Field on August 26. Many of the attendees will likely be white nationalists or members of similar hate groups.

      More may be read at:

    • Rebecca, I saw this article and immediately thought of you, I think this is a brilliant idea.

      Adopt-a-Nazi’ campaign to troll white supremacist rally
      Their GoFundMe has already amassed more than $92,000 in donations.
      AUG 22, 2017

      A group of Jewish lawyers in San Francisco has discovered a clever new way to fight white supremacy: adoption.

      Of course, the Jewish Bar Association isn’t actually encouraging anyone to adopt or sponsor white supremacists. Instead, the group is asking the public to donate to its “Adopt-a-Nazi (Not Really)” GoFundMe campaign, which is being used to raise funds for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit legal advocacy organization that monitors hate groups across the country and litigates on behalf of marginalized groups. So far, the campaign has raised more than $92,000—far beyond its original goal of $10,000.

      The strategy is simple: according to the GoFundMe page, donors are encouraged to give some amount of money for each of the 300 expected attendees at an upcoming “free speech” rally put on by the right-wing Patriot Prayer group at Crissy Field on August 26. Many of the attendees will likely be white nationalists or members of similar hate groups.

      According to the Adopt-a-Nazi campaign, no donation is too small.

      More may be read at:

  15. How true. It is easier to fight the war on your doorstep than it is when it is thousands of miles away. Sometimes we forget that if we don’t be allies and march the thousand miles to fight the war then the war will eventually be at OUR doorstep with no allies to help us. I believe this is the battle of the century in America. Will we work for a more equal America or an America that turns its back on the guiding Democratic principles of the Republic.

    • Robin wrote, ” Will we work for a more equal America or an America that turns its back on the guiding Democratic principles of the Republic.”

      Count me in as one who fights for the guiding Democratic principles of the Republic. Every single day except Sundays in Advent and Lent.

  16. At the height of the Troubles in my native Northern Ireland, my family moved to the US, bringing with us memories of what it was like to be in a religious minority in what was basically an occupied land. Things are a lot better there now than then, but it was telling to me that my straight, white, Catholic dad never forgot what it was to be the underdog — it deeply informed his views on race in the US. When there was controversy years back on some Confederate symbol, my dad mentioned to me the IRA blowing up Nelson’s pillar, a famous Dublin colonial monument to English Admiral Horatio Nelson. (Not the ideal way to get rid of a controversial monument, but I guess there was some clause that it would be maintained in perpetuity, so it wasn’t going anywhere by legal means.) Sometimes a symbol or monument really rubs salt in the wound, whether it’s a pillar celebrating British military might in the middle of Ireland or a Confederate monument in a park, especially since many of the Confederate monuments were erected at the height of Jim Crow and were, by that time, more about race than about the actual Civil War.

    • Anya wrote, “Things are a lot better there now than then, but it was telling to me that my straight, white, Catholic dad never forgot what it was to be the underdog — it deeply informed his views on race in the US. ”

      I hope you are very proud of your father. I am impressed with him. A great many immigrants fled horrors inflicted upon them in their own home countries only to come here and inflict horrors of their own on people different from themselves. The USA could have benefited from more immigrants like your father.

  17. Good thoughts, and many times I’ve fallen prey to this temptation to just “back away” from conflict arising from issues that directly affect people I love. I don’t tend to go to protests, but I might start now … you’re right, marginalized people DO need white allies to show solidarity when it counts. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  18. Hi, John

    I appreciate the gentle, firm tone of your call to action, which shows that your heart is tender toward people like your friend. But I can’t help but think your call to activism comes with this proviso: That we care and act as you think we should–as you do. In other words, if we DO truly care, we must care and act as you do and must process the racial, political and societal situation concerning Charlottesville as you do. Otherwise, we’re on the wrong side and are part of the problem.

    For the record, I loathe everything neo-Nazis believe and stand for, AND I disagree utterly with the modus operandi of ANTIFA. I care deeply about race relations and statue toppling and its historic ramifications, but I do not agree with your analysis of the situation. I just don’t see things as you do, but it seems you expect and demand that others do so. And if they don’t, you’re ready to label and criticize them in the name of love and your interpretation of Christ’s nature and his call for his followers.

    Is there any room for disagreement and discussion here?


    • So what do you want Patrick? Let me guess. Let us just forget about racism. These are the end times, and Jesus is coming back any minute. So, let us all gather quietly on a hillside and wait for Jesus to rapture us out of a world for which we should no longer have any major concern—because this world and everything in it are on the verge of “the end.”

      Yeah but. Jesus has been coming back just one minute from now for the past 2,000 years. What if He waits another 2,000 years—or 10,000 years, or 100,000 years? What if He already came back nearly 2,000 years ago. Jesus said that He would return in his own generation, and the disciples and apostles were certain of this too because that is precisely what Jesus said. And besides. It is not the end of the world. In the Bible, it is the end of an Age in human history. If you have been reading all that fundie end times crap by Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye—you have been suckered big-time. Jesus said that He did not know the specifics of such things, and he warned these guys not to speculate on such things—but they went ahead and did it anyway—and speculation is all it is.

      There is no rapture Patrick. The rapture was invented in 1830, and you fundies do not have a quick ticket out of here—so you can skip dying—unlike all the humans before you. Just like over the past 2,000 years, Jesus has given YOU responsibility for doing his work in this world. That means opposing racism in all its forms, along with many other things. No one has given you a blank check to sit on a hillside and wait for the end when other Christians are doing God’s work in this world.

      • No Charles, he just thinks there is a different way to skin the cat and that he doesn’t accept extreme left wing ideas as the solution. That doesn’t mean he’s in the extreme-fundi group that you are so obsessed with, whether it is real or imagined. It’s not either left wing liberal extreme or right wing fundi.

        Your way means embracing abortion and all other kinds of injustices and immorality. Some of us can disagree with the racists and Nazis and with you too. It’s not either the Nazis or the pro-aborts, you know.

        So I’m not going to sit on the hillside and let you preach against morality and justice for all from conception until natural death. You’re not really standing on solid ground and your guilt trips don’t have any authority behind them, since you’re so guilty yourselves.

        Look to someone like Mother Teresa as an example.

  19. “First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”
    – MLK “Letters From a Birmingham Jail”

  20. I’m still rather new to the idea of white privelege. I am caucasion, myself, but I married a chinese guy in a time when that was not popular amongst the chinese community. It was better tolerated in Canada, but the first 3 years of our marriage, we spent in his childhood home of Singapore. Having spent that time in a foriegn country, where I was very much aware of the mistrust and misconception that many of my “new family” had towards me. No matter how hard I tried, my mother in law in particular, never could overcome her fears and dislike of me. Thirty years later, it still persists. I have always been aware of cultural differences, but never embraced any form of privelege because I was white.

    Only recently, have I discussed white privelege with my two sons, who, of course, are bi-racial . Like myself, my eldest, seemed obilivious to racial discrimination and never felt in anyway shunned by peers, or targetted by police. However, my younger son, was very vocal about his fears and the discrimination he felt in his workplace and throughout university. Both my sons are very very obviously mixed race. I am blonde, blue eyed and fair skinned, while my husband is a bit darker skinned, black hair, and deep brown eyes ( which I fell in love with 32 years ago). Both my boys take after their dad in appearance. I was very surprized by their polar opposite views on white privelege.

    I’ve said all this to support this one point. I believe that “white privelege” is more a personal perception and the latest buzz word to grip our society, than it is a real problem. Being white and living in a dominately chinese neighbourhood, made me feel self conscious, yes, but superior, no. I dont think the thought of discrimination on my part existed. Having spent that time as a foreigner living amongst a very different culture taught me important lessons about tolerance and acceptance that I carried back to Canada with me, and made me sensitive to those around me who were foreigners to Canada.

    Now dont get me wrong here. I do believe that there is discrimination and bigotry in the world. I know that race issues have played a big part in history. I am not blind to that. But to label a whole race of people as being “white priveleged”? Are you kidding me?

    We are all different. We all relate to people in our own pecular ways. As individuals, this world around us is getting smaller and smaller, with our instant access to communication and technology. Can we stop labelling one another? Do we have to be so petty and small minded as to try and keep each other in these tiny, little boxes and not accept one another with love and compassion for who we really are?

  21. This morning I sent emails to the Republican Party headquarters in Mesa, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell. I do not know if they will be read but this is the gist.

    [[Last night I watched in disgust as Trump fans booed their own Senator, John McCain, an American Hero, former POW, and a man being treated for brain cancer. Every single person who booed really does belong in a basket of deplorables. They are not patriots. I am ashamed that they call themselves Americans. This is your senator. These people are your people, your face. You are watching your party follow this vile, petty little, little man over a cliff into moral abyss. Where is your God?]]

    I was so saddened by that behavior I had to do something.
    I know, the majority of Republicans respect and honor Senator McCain as they should and were probably as horrified as I was. But those people last night were awful. President Trump is dividing this country. To all of you who voted for this man I do not blame you, I do understand. But can you not see that he destroying not building?

    • I appreciate your impassioned description of Senator McCain. He is a hero. He is very ill and I think what he faces is tragic. I could go on all day and tell you great things about the Senator. But as a Senator he is in the way and needs to retire, respectfully I say this. And, I am a Hillary voter just in case you are wondering

      • Jerry, I am also a Hillary voter. I respect every hero who has served in the military and especially those who have been willing to give their life for this country. I thought he was not going to run again anyway. I was speaking to the fact that a party willing to savage their own, especially an ill and possibly dying man shows a loss of humanity and conscience which speaks to their idolatry of Trump more than any thing else.

        As an aside I think our country has chewed up and spit out our boots on the ground soldiers for decades. Throwing more money at the military never seems to trickle down that far.

  22. I am enjoying a wonderful vacation in the beautiful and amazing City and country of Zurich, Switzerland. I guess some would say that I am privileged. Here is the deal about America: while there are racist people that exist, America IS NOT an inherently racist country! And I say this as a man of color. Now, back off to my privileged life. By the way, I am having a beautiful new Suit custom made, and I know that it will look great when it is completed.

  23. You wouldn’t have these problems if you move to a socialist state as I advocate. It is much more equitable if the state issues the privilege. Our so called freedom actually is not a good thing at all. If you think it is read some of these posts. And, frankly you all need to get over the whole god thing. Once you make a pretty good point you go back into jesus mode which helps no one. I have been an atheist for years and I can tell you that you would be much more happy as atheists. And, do consider kicking the god habit Just trying to help.

  24. I think your tactics are bad. I told you guys that when you backed Clinton. *THAT* was privilege. I think your identity-based self-centered tactics are bad now too. So knock yourselves out. I’ll work on an exit strategy because stupid is as stupid does and until you start having some common sense I’ll view this as a battle already lost.

    • Jerom Jerome, so tell me, do you prefer authoritarianism, bigotry, denial of climate change, destroying families, destruction of the planet and God’s creation, discrimination, fascism, global warming, gynophobia, hatred of the poor, homophobia, intolerance of a different of opinion, intolerance of people that are different, Islamaphobia, kleptocracy, misogyny, nonpartisanship, police brutality, prejudice, racism, in favour of rape, in favour of sexual assault, in favour of sexual harassment, in favour of sexual molestation, transgenderphobia, white supremacy, and xenophobia?

      Because if you voted GOP, or for a third party, or didn;t bother to vote, you actually cast your vote for the above evils.

      • Stop lying and exaggerating please. These things are not on the Republican platform.

        Sadly, killing inconvenient babies is on the Democratic platform, and no Christian should ever support that.

  25. “Everything in modern city life is calculated to keep man from entering into himself and thinking about spiritual things. Even with the best of intentions a spiritual man finds himself exhausted and deadened and debased by the constant noise of machines and loudspeakers, the dead air and the glaring lights of offices and shops, the everlasting suggestion of advertising and propaganda.” ― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

  26. Pingback: Balanced Resistance, Pardon Joe, Clergy, Confederate Statues, alt-Right Polka –

  27. Thank you. As a mixed race woman whom people “see” as African-American only, this is something I have tried to explain to my white family and friends with little success. It is also something which people with this privilege have to discuss with each other, hearing it from those who don’t before understanding many times causes misunderstandings.

  28. I have a son in Durham and at some point when I visit him and his family, I am going to drive to Raleigh and visit your church. Seems like everything you write is just what I need to hear at that moment. Thank you!

  29. Sorry, no. Not at all. Not even close. Here’s why – when you get involved you are a target of hate, fear and disgust from every side and at all times and there is no relief from it. There is a place for a person to opt out of the insanity without guilt, without assumption and without fear. There is a place for a non sexist, non bigoted, non racist white person to exist in peace, treating their LGBTQ friends and family with decency and respect, side by side with their Muslim neighbors , and hand in hand in their communities regardless of race. There is a place for those people to exist and to flourish without the need for taking part in the circus of thought policing , violent, polarizing insanity that has gripped this country. It’s called calmly, quietly doing the right thing – and no one should even speak to trying to guilt-trip people into feeling bad for doing it. Every day acts of kindness and respect, dignity and peace will always be an alternative to marching in the streets smashing windows and hurling hate at people with the only losses being of family and friends, peace and respect.

    No , I’m sorry John, but you can not guilt me or bully anyone into joining the hate circus. You can not and will not force a label on people who practice peace , love, and respect every day as best they can. You can not force people by guilt or shame to take part in disrespectful behavior and introduce violence and fighting into a problem that peace can solve.


  30. Well as for sides and not taking them, or blaming both of them, that’s absurd.There’s only one side and it’s the side of Christ Jesus. He would never have marched with the Nazis or hate groups that are nationalistic. He might sing the song “One World” by Bob Marley and sit in a Hindu prayer circle, but he would never, ever be chanting “Jews will not replace us”. That’s absurd.I think it’s very destructive to Christianity that Trump said there’s blame on both sides. NO… There’s not.

  31. I’m new to your blog. A friend directed me to it. I much appreciated your words! I’m fighting battles in my 50s that I had hoped would be settled by now: I’m Jewish ( atheist), queer (trans-AFAB), Democratic Socialist, and life under Trump&Co had me subjected to the kind of attacks I haven’t seen since my childhood. Voices like yours are important. Thank you for speaking out.
    I just want to add that I’m sure you must have read Michael Eric Dyson’s eloquent book Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon To White America? That’s been instrumental in helping me address MY whit-ish privilege. I’m attending a meeting today of a local group that is trying to talk about privilege. I suggested this book and also that that they get some members or at least speakers who WEREN’T white, middle-class, Christian, and straight. Idk if they heard me. We’ll see.
    I’ll be checking back to see what you write from time to time.

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