There was this Eddie Murphy bit on Saturday Night Live back in the day where he dressed up like a white guy to see what happened on public transit when all the black folks disembarked. Basically it turned into a cocktail party, if I remember right. It was funny, you know, back when Saturday Night Live was funny. The good old days. But I digress.
There’s this concept floating around called “white privilege” that a lot of people are talking about, which is a spoke in the wheel of a terrible ideology containing other spokes like critical race theory and intersectionality, among other things. One of the battles that we have been fighting in the western world is the battle over the dictionary. Because I believe God spoke and the world came into existence, I believe that words have meaning. Secularists have no basis for believing that words have meaning, so there is a lot of bait and switch type stuff that goes on. One example is “tolerance”, which means “put up with” until they decided it meant “you’d better participate in our deviant behavior or we’ll take your bakery away.”
I remember hearing my dad say about a thousand times in various churches across the country, “It’s a privilege to be here today.” By which he meant that he was not special and had not done anything deserving of their attention, but he was humbled and grateful for the opportunity that they had given him. Today, privilege seems to mean something a little bit dirty and shameful.
The reality is that part of the job of every society is to accrue benefits for its members. A more basic way of thinking about this is that every parent wants good things for their children and works so that they can have them. I’m open to the possibility that those with white skin have accrued more benefits for their children than those with black skin, and I’m even open to the possibility that some of those benefits have been accrued at the expense of blacks. (Historically, I think this is a relative given considering the African slave trade that provided slave labor.) But because I am not a cultural Marxist, I don’t believe that this is a zero-sum game. Instead, I believe that the flourishing of human society is essentially limitless when it is based in righteousness, a condition that will one day be made permanent. This means that the privileges enjoyed by some can be shared by others without detracting from anyone. Everyone can be privileged in a rightly ordered society.
What if there is a way that I am privileged far beyond what white privilege confers? What if that great privilege need not be limited by the color of one’s skin? Let me share 2 thoughts with you. The first privilege that is truly unearned, freely bestowed, and cause for humble gratitude is the privilege of being born into a stable family. The family is the first society you join and it confers so many benefits on its members that, despite the governments best attempts to replace it, it has proven itself irreplaceable. If you have/had a mom and a dad who love you, discipline you, instruct you, comfort you, rebuke you, and model upright behavior for you then you are indeed privileged. Those who grow up without this benefit work incredibly hard to achieve social, economic, and emotional stability and are at a much higher risk of dropping out of school, engaging in dangerous behavior, being the victim of a sexual assault, etc…
When you live in the culture of a healthy family, you master skills as a child that others will struggle with as adults. You know how to communicate. You know how to settle disagreements. You know how finances work. You know how to work. You understand that actions have consequences for good or for bad. You know that you can’t run away from hard stuff. You know that others have invested in your life and you have a duty to return that investment. You know you will not sleep on the streets even if you lose your job. You know that if you get sick and need someone to come help with the kids while you puke your guts out that there is a parent or a sibling or a cousin who will come to your rescue. From a society wide perspective, nothing will improve our nation more than the establishment of strong and healthy families. I can tell you that in all the ministry I have performed I would without hesitation say that a good family is far more of a benefit than white skin. I am far more thankful for my parents than I am for my skin color. So honor your parents, get married, love your spouse, and have lots of babies.
The second privilege that is far greater than white privilege is the privilege of knowing God through His Son Jesus Christ. This is a privilege that is unearned and undeserved and can be shared across every demographic because in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, no slave or freeman, and no male or female. And this privilege contains the adoption as sons by which we are welcomed into the family of God, which is a society worth joining. Of course, it’s messy because only sinners are allowed to join. But you do learn how to communicate with grace, how to settle disputes with patience, how to instruct and how to be instructed. Ultimately, I count knowing Christ to be the greatest privilege of my life and I hope that my daily response to it is humble gratitude.
I make no apology for the privileges in my life because I have little claim on them. I am, like Bilbo, just a small hobbit in a very large world. I am as humbled to come home to my family as I am grateful to sit at the deathbed of a dying young alcoholic whose liver had failed and tell him that there is forgiveness, there is hope, and there is a Redeemer. I am undeserving of both experiences. These are far greater privileges than the color of my skin.