Privilege

I recently attended a one day seminar by Christena Cleveland, the newly appointed inaugural Associate Professor of the Practice of Reconciliation at Duke University’s Divinity School where she is also the faculty director of Duke’s Center for Reconciliation.  She is also the author of Disunity In Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart.

One of the statements she made that stuck with me ran something like this…

Many people are willing to acknowledge that minority populations are discriminated against. However most of these same people fail to recognise that when a person is discriminated against someone else gains an “unfair” advantage, or privilege.

For example, numerous studies (HERE’s one) have been conducted which demonstrate that resumes with a white sounding name are 50% more likely to receive callbacks than applicants with black sounding names. When Kate or James get a job that launches them on to a successful career, they naturally think it’s due to their grades and previous life/work experience. They don’t realise (and probably their employer doesn’t either) that their odds of obtaining that job increased because black candidates with identical, or even better, qualifications were subconsciously discriminated against in the hiring process.

A 2008 research project in New York City summarised,

“We find that whites and Latinos are systemically favored over black job seekers. Indeed, the effect of discrimination is so large that white job seekers just released from prison do no worse than blacks without criminal records.”
Cheesy workplace diversity pic

Cheesy workplace diversity stock  pic

Yes, white job applicants do need to study hard, work hard and perform well to get their jobs. They do compete against everyone else: black, white and Latino. Because of their hard work they feel that they’ve earned their accomplishments, and they have. But because they have the “right” name they compete against less candidates than do the minority applicants. That’s privilege.

.

How does this impact churches?

Church leaders have an opportunity to share studies like this with their communities. I know that many members of white churches bristle at the phrase, “white privilege”. So if black Christians (correctly) believe they’re often on the receiving end of discrimination, but white Christians won’t accept the inverse of that equation, there’s going to be conflict.
.
White Christians have the opportunity to assist their minority brethren by using their social and professional networks to bring qualified candidates of color to the attention of those responsible for hiring. While it’s admirable to assist those we know, there’s an even greater opportunity to be advocates in the workplace for racial minorities during the hiring process. This awareness is not only necessary in multinational corporations with detailed diversity hiring guidelines, but in small businesses in small towns. This is not about being “anti-white”. This is about working to create true equality for all applicants regardless of whether their name is Sarah or Jamal.
Additionally, this understanding should impact our attitude toward minorities who find themselves unemployed. For some, in their reality it’s twice as difficult to find employment than it is for white Americans. Our attitude towards these people should focus upon compassion. All to often they receive criticism to accompany the despair of unemployment.
Understanding privilege should help us to love our neighbor as we better understand our neighbors world.
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s