Sit Down and Listen: Understanding My Privilege

You might have seen the word “privilege” thrown around the blog here recently. A couple months ago, I threw my hat into the ring during a discussion at Homebrewed Christianity (I’m somewhere in the comments) regarding the difference between privilege and racism.  Up to that point, I had only been vaguely aware of what privilege was, and less so that I had any of it. By asking honestly what I could do about it, I received honest feedback, and it’s inspired me since to look outside my perspective at how others view the world.

This is my small diving board into the world of people who don’t experience life as I do.  I intend to do more beyond this, but since this blog is about reading, what better place to start?  I combed through my ever growing library to find a few texts that might shed light either on my own position of privilege and/or the position of non-privilege(?) that others experience.  Here’s the five that I’m currently reading (out of 15; everything else on my shelves is either by some white dude or doesn’t pertain to the subject matter, mostly the former):

  1. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. Picked this up last week at a local used book shop.  Had to grab it in light of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
  2. Collected Essays of James Baldwin. Pick from the same shop, but closer to a year ago.  Fascinating African-American intellectual writer at the height of the civil rights movement, though far more radical than King.  Great stuff all the same.
  3. Friends of God and Prophets: A Feminist Theological Interpretation of Communion of the Saints by Elizabeth Johnson.  This is my first step into feminist theology, and though I find the content fascinating, I do get the sense that there’s a lot I don’t know about feminist theology that I need to pick up on to get everything she’s trying to say.  Johnson comes highly recommended, though, so I’m glad to have this one in my possession.
  4. The Favored Daughter by Fawzia Koofi.  She’s the current Speaker of Parliament in Afghanistan and this is her autobiography on her life to date.  This one is positively flooring me with every page.  I am humbled and moved by this woman’s experience.
  5. The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose.  It’s the story of a Brown student who spends a semester at Liberty University, one of the most conservative Christian colleges in the nation.  I lump this book in with my privilege studies because my identification as a Christian affords me a heavy amount of privilege here in America, and it’s interesting to see what this guys’ perspective is on people like me, who went to conservative Christian college.

My ultimate goal with this undertaking is to listen.  I’ve spent much time saying what one group of people needs, or how this program might fix that issue, and I have learned that I know nothing and that the people I speak of have the power to rise up and fix these issues, whatever they may be, if we let them do so and stand in solidarity with them.

This doesn’t mean I won’t read books by white guys; I also have Naked Lunch by William Burroughs and On Writing Well by William Zinsser in the rotation as well, and as I finish books, I’ll rotate new ones in, depending on what I feel like reading.  Again, my aim with all of this is to listen and, hopefully, stand in solidarity with those less privileged than I and, if it truly can be part of the solution, lend a hand in helping to fix the problem.


2 thoughts on “Sit Down and Listen: Understanding My Privilege

  1. let me know how Zinsser’s ‘On Writing’ is — finished a collection from his blog and think he cd be ok, although not likely to wow or instruct outside a WASP experience.

    looked into any liberation theology? ‘Manana’ and James Cone’s works wd be the suggestions.

    • The Zinsser’s reading is purely career-driven. Wanna learn how to write better.

      I have some of Oscar Romer’s writings, as well as a study of Ignacio Ellacuria’s theology from around the same time, in addition to a few other books on the subject. For awhile, I was pretty averse to Cone, but he continues to pique my interest, so I hope to pick up The Cross and the Lynching Tree around Christmas time.

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