by Alex Mikulich, Ph.D., JSRI Fellow
One irony of American history is the tendency of good white Americans to presume racial innocence. White ignorance of how we are shaped racially is the first sign of privilege. In other words, it is a privilege to ignore the consequences of race in America.
Guilt, accusation, or moralistic finger-pointing at the “cabal of bigots”1 who keep people of color down, misses the problem. Rather, the complexity of white privilege concerns how good people—including myself—perpetuate and benefit from racial hierarchy.
The deeper religious irony, the influential Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr warned, is that until privileged Christians humbly learn from those whom we oppress, we will miss the conversion to which the Gospel calls us.2 Ultimately, to fully address racial privilege, the church calls the faithful to practice dialogue, sharing, mutual aid, and collaboration with all others.3