From “Filled to Be Emptied: The Path to Liberation for Privileged People” by Brandan Robertson – Westminster John Knox Press
Destruction is the result of any long-term exploitation of one’s privilege – greed and selfishness always backfire in the end. White privilege has created systems and structures that are unable to stand as justice and equity roll forth like a river in our society – and this will create a sense of loss for millions of white people. The pain and fears of, for instance, the white working-class family in the midwestern United States are very real. In different eras of history, when white supremacy was even more dominant, it was far easier for white working-class families to succeed at the expense of the exploitation and exclusion of people of color. The system of whiteness was built upon the expectation that such oppression would continue in perpetuity. But justice and truth are slowly prevailing, and as they do, the system of whiteness is facing collapse, and with it the inherited expectation of success, comfort, and prosperity for white working-class Americans.
The pain the privileged feel when equity begins to be realized is real. There is often a cost. It will, in fact, become more difficult and take more work for white people to succeed when the system of white privilege is dismantled. But that is not oppression – it’s fairness. It respects no identity as better than others, offers no advantages, and offers everyone an equal opportunity to run the race of “success,” with winning being wholly dependent on talent, effort, and persistence alone. While many white people have bought into the illusion that it was only through hard work and stamina that our ancestors “succeeded,” when our eyes are opened to the reality of privilege, we begin to see that the race our ancestors ran was rigged in our favor and against people of color, and actually was fueled by their exploitation for our own “success.” As we begin to realize and reckon with these realities, we also need to realize that as the systems of whiteness are dismantled, there will be an era of great discomfort and a sense of loss for many of us. But this is the consequence of the unjust systems that our ancestors created, and if we are to truly see the justice of God established on earth, we are required to pass through this moment of fear and trembling.
But privileged people shouldn’t fear things getting more “difficult” for us, but rather, we should fear the results of what will happen if things do not. Greed and exploitation always result in mutually assured destruction, both of those who exploit and those who are being exploited. As the mountains are lowered and valleys are exalted, we must rejoice, for only through this subversive reckoning can the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible become a reality. This is indeed God’s judgment upon us, but it is not retributive, it is restorative. When we begin to function as a collective, caring and sacrificing for the good of one another in all our diversity, all of us will flourish. Through losing our position of privilege, all of us together will gain immensely. It is counterintuitive and it certainly won’t feel like gain initially, but if we truly trust in the social-spiritual vision of Jesus, we should have confidence that in a world of equality, abundance will flow freely for us all.