Monday, January 20, 2014

My small contribution: Something to make you think about "Privilege" as we mark MLK Day...

At church yesterday we had a visiting pastor and his topic was Injustice.  Apropos on this day we reflect on the life of MLK Jr.

He quoted some passages for a book by Andy Crouch: Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power.

The two passages below are secular and define the concept of "privilege" in terms even I could understand. I have been thinking about them since yesterday.  So I bought the book on Kindle and re-read the passages the pastor quoted and then some.
"Privilege is a special kind of power. It is a form of power that requires no effort. Indeed, only in unusual circumstances do we become conscious of it at all. Most of the time, privilege just works on behalf of those who have it, never making the slightest demands of them. The best way I know to define privilege is the ongoing benefits of past successful exercises of power. Privilege is the name for all the good things we do not need to try to acquire, because they simply flow to us as a result of past exercises of power.' (underlining mine)
This next one relates to an incident Mr Crouch had at the airport in Mumbai. where an airport worker moved him to the front of the line ahead of a group of men who were going to Saudi Arabia to work as laborers. It explicitly put the esoterica of privilege in front of him and required him ponder how much of his life, by virtue of who he is and what he looks like, is predicated on a privilege never earned.
"And privilege is dangerous because of how easily it becomes invisible. The incident in the Mumbai airport has haunted me ever since. There was nothing I had ever done to deserve to be put in line in front of these hard-working men. If anything, quite the reverse. I was simply the beneficiary of privilege, of rent— a free pass in excess of anything I deserved or even wanted. But what really has haunted me is this question: How many times have I been put at the front of the line without even knowing there was a line? How many times have I walked through a door that opened, invisibly and silently, for me, but slammed shut for others ? How many lines have I cut in a life of privilege?"
What was interesting about this encounter is the reaction of the men in line.  This is what they expected to happen.
"But as I walked off toward the boarding gate, flushed with surprise and embarrassment, I could not detect the slightest surprise or discomfort in that line of men. It gradually dawned on me that not only were they not surprised that I had been ushered to the front of the line— they had expected it the moment I arrived. They had understood what was happening long before I did. They knew about something I was only beginning to understand: the power of privilege."
As you go about your day look for explicit and implicit examples of the power of privilege and whether you (or others) are the grantee or the grantor of that privilege.

Book source:   Crouch, Andy (2013-09-09). Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power (p. 154). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.


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