The Unspoken Obligation of Privilege

 Topic: The Unspoken Obligation of Privilege

Today’s sermon, which is kind of aimed at white people, is about something that is not often discussed: The obligation of anyone with a degree of privilege to use it to help those without. Possibly the most elegant way this obligation has been phrased comes from American novelist and social critic Toni Morrison (1931-2019): “If you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”

The Living Blood, which is the second book in the African Immortals series, written by gifted author Tananarive Due, addresses this obligation in a somewhat oblique way. Our heroine Jessica is using her blood, which can cure virtually any illness or injury, to help as many people as she feels safe helping. There is great danger in doing so, as there are avaricious men who would kidnap her and her daughter and keep them captive, slowly milking them for blood. Then they would sell the blood for billions as a miracle cure. But she feels that she is obligated to use the power she holds for the greater good.

White people could learn a valuable lesson from these two women of color. As a member of a privileged class, it is upon us to call out racism when we see it and to strive to be an anti-racist. It costs us nothing to speak out in human solidarity and defend another. We can be advocates for others in all aspects of our lives, whether they are our brothers and sisters of color or our transgender friends and family members or just some short kid. Be a social justice warrior. (Whomever decided this was supposed to be an insult did not think about how badass it sounds, although I think of myself as more of a social justice cleric.)

 It is also our duty to open our hearts to the perspectives and stories of others, to be as accepting and welcoming as we can be to those who are different. Try not to make assumptions about people; be generous, especially with your heart. The reward for being a nice person, aside from all the inner peace and Serenity, is that just about everyone wants to be your friend. Making meaningful social connections is good for you not only mentally, physically, and spiritually, but also financially. It is much easier to find a good job if you know people who have good jobs, and it is easier to keep a good job if you can get and maintain a reputation for being the sort of person who lifts other people up.

The first thing any white person must do is acknowledge their privilege and the power that comes with it. Once you know that you hold a sword, it is imperative that you know when and where to swing it. Do you have any power or privilege? How can you use it to empower or support those who do not?


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