I ask you to take off your shoes, remove all baggage and the burdens you carry, sit down, arms out in front, palms raised.
This is a safe place.
And it is a place where we need to show up and be truthful.
This is a place where we can be honest about our stories, and how our stories and journeys deeply inform how we think about, view, and interpret the world around us.
You have been hearing and reading all of the media about the killing of black people at the hands of police officers. You are struggling with this. You see – your Dad is a police officer. And growing up in the home of a cop, you have deeply felt the sacrifices your family has made as a result of your dad’s vocation. And you are so proud of him and his integrity. So, the blame you see around you feels personal. And you are not sure how to deal with that.
You keep hearing this term “white privilege” and it angers you. You did not grow up with ANY privilege whatsoever. You had your first job long before your childhood was over in order to help support the family. Your body can still acutely remember what hunger feels like. So, when someone looks at you and puts the label of “white privilege” onto you, you want to scream! You feel misunderstood and unjustly treated without anyone taking the time to know YOUR story.
Someone told you that you need to look at your implicit bias. You are not sure what that means, but you DO know that you are not a racist, and you are so tired of the assumption that just because you are white, you are racist. In fact, you are so weary of hearing that this is a racist nation and think people are just making a mountain out of a molehill.
I am going to hand each of you three small burlap sacks. They are labeled as such::
In front of you is a pile of small white strips of paper. Leave those there for now – I will get to them. First, I want to define some terms for you to help us all come to the table with knowledge and truth.
For so many of us, we have heard this term used in so many ways, and yet – if we are honest – we are not entirely sure what it means. Let’s start with “privilege”. Privilege is an entitlement to immunity. Think about that.
An entitlement to immunity.
It cannot be earned.
It is simply given due to any circumstance that is completely out of one’s control.
White privilege is an entitlement to immunity because of the color of one’s skin.
Likewise, it cannot be earned.
It is simply given.
In order for one of white privilege to be able to fully understand this, one has to be willing to trust.
One has to be willing to listen to and believe another’s story.
When one is able to do that, one can then see the places in one’s life where white privilege has been a factor. Where entitlement due to the color of one’s skin has lead to immunity, which is strikingly in contrast to another’s story that was shared,
Now. Pick up a few of those pieces of paper in front of you. Take some time to scroll through memories of your own life and write down any instances that come to mind where you may have experienced white privilege OR where you noticed that a friend of color did not.
Once you have a few thoughts written down, share them with the group, then place them in the burlap sack that says,
Another term that we want to dissect is this idea of Implicit Bias. First, let’s look at the word “Implicit”.
Implicit means implied though not plainly expressed.
Bias means a prejudice or a tendency toward one thing over another.
When one puts those two words together, Implicit Bias means
prejudices (stereotypes) that affect our understanding
Not on purpose.
I think it is fair to say that every human being has this.
When we marry White Privilege with Implicit Bias, then the latter has to do more with the ways in which one’s privilege keeps one from knowing another’s story, therefore leading to the formation of stereotypes because there is no true knowledge of another, so we fill in the blanks with
Take those pieces of paper in front of you. Take some time to really think about those stereotypes that have formulated due to a lack of information or relationships. Share them with the group, then place them in the burlap sack marked,
Now tie all three of those bags together, linking the strings so that the bags form a circle.
Do you see it?
Do you see how each of our stories is inexorably linked to both white privilege and implicit bias?
This should not be a source of shame for any of us.
This should be a source of truth that compels us to want to recognize what it is exactly that each of us brings to the table.
Until we begin to take those pieces of paper OUT of our “white privilege” and “implicit bias” bags and dismantle them by replacing them with thoughts and experiences that reconcile us to one another, healing cannot happen. The story never changes.