How hard it is to untangle our mistakes without wanting to justify ourselves and explain why we did what we did, or how we misunderstood something or how others misunderstood us. But sometimes the only path forward is to simply say, “I was wrong,” or to be able to see ourselves as we are with compassion. Sometimes, opening ourselves to the deep truths of our imperfect world is the only way forward.
The singer of Psalm 25 hopes in God and wants instruction on God’s loving paths. Lent is the time for instruction and repentance. Can we sometimes participate in an evil we don’t recognize and still be lovable? How do we morph into God’s best hope for us and invite the world into that same hope?
One way, the Psalmist exclaims, is to ask to see the truth. Our world is full of hard truths, and the pervasive reality of white privilege is one of them. “White Privilege” is a term that can make some people bristle and feel assaulted. “After all,” one might say, “I wasn’t handed anything in life. I’ve worked hard for what I have. I am not privileged.” However, privilege can be a subtle thing and hard to see. For example, people with white skin do not, during a normal day, consciously think about the fact that they are white. People with brown skin think about it many times during a day because it can’t be avoided. There is a privilege in not having to think about one’s skin color. A privilege born in the culture we have inherited.
We may not have personally participated in making the social order but we move in it without noticing how our assumptions have been created by it. And, if we are white, we benefit from that order in ways we don’t see. God’s truth for us may be that we must open our eyes to what we have unconsciously inherited so that we can dismantle racism, even if we don’t feel racist. We must do that with all people in service of the ideal, “A Just World for All.” The first step is simply admitting there’s a problem. We can’t fix something if we don’t think it’s broken. And, the truth is that our world, especially regarding race, is broken.
Lent is both about brokenness and about hope. There is always hope to be found in the truth. As people of faith, we believe that. We have a curriculum, available online, thoughtfully and sensitively crafted to begin a conversation in our communities about race and America, and the hard truth of white privilege. Go to privilege.uccpages.org. You will find printed materials and videos to help you on this journey. What better time than Lent to walk this path?