The concept of white privilege haunts me. How blind am I to my own? When do I fail to see how it derails others?
It was hard not to wonder after one of the absolute BEST days of my life Saturday hanging out with an incredible rag-tag but gifted bunch of volunteers God has called together as well as joyful, eager kids awaiting us in a subsidized-housing complex in my neighborhood.
Those of us planning this Artsy Fartsy event are all white, well educated and live pretty comfortably. What we share is a love of children and making sure that those with less opportunity get some extra nurture and creativity in their lives. We are teachers and ministers.
This complex is mostly white, but more racially diverse than the surrounding community. I am the one who targeted this particular development and my group has supported that decision. I chose it because it is part of my neighborhood – one I have heard others say they wish were more removed. I know, firsthand, how creative expression is such a leveling factor. It teaches us to move inside, explore and get to know who we are without the trappings of judgment, skin color, socio-economic status or anything else. I want these children to taste what those of us who have grown up in different circumstances have often taken for granted. I want them to shine. To create. To be themselves. To make choices. To dream. To dare.
I don’t want them to feel limited because of where they live, what their parents may or may not do for a living, whether they have two parents, whether they have many extras in their lives. I want them to feel valued for who they are as fellow children of God.
I want them to know somebody else cared if even only through nine months of art exploration. I keep thinking of them, smiling as I put away the stash of Saturday’s aftermath we all unloaded, then quickly headed to my best friend’s for feasting and fellowship after the afternoon’s work.
I remember Layla, whom I first met last week as I was dropping off yard signs. She was the first to sign up and so proud of that. Also of Emijah, whose grandmother I spent an hour getting to know. This grandmother wants something better for this generation. She’s lived in the development 30 years and seen it all. We laughed when we discovered we’d been neighbors for over 20 years and hope we bump into each other Krogering. One mother we visited in her apartment because she’d just returned from jail, exhausted. Nevertheless, she was delighted to enroll her daughter.
Last week when I was explaining to a gaggle of fourth-graders what Atrsy Fartsy is, one looked to the ground and quietly said she had no way to get there. Another admitted they were afraid of the woods because a five-year-old the know had been raped and stabbed to death, though several counties away. I explained that we arranged for adults volunteers to walk them to and from the monthly sessions and their eyes lit up. That would be great, they chimed in.
I still struggle with the cultural voice [of white privilege] whispering that I should be looking for a paying job and saving for college since my kids are getting more independent. Fortunately God drowns out that whisper and I have dedicated, caring volunteers, a faith community and three grants to tell me otherwise.
And, so far, eight young ladies waiting for Atrsy Fartsy to begin in a few weeks. We’re hoping to add some boys to that mix and are open to prayers in that direction!
• Where can I see privilege in my life?
• How does that open me to those without it?
• How/where am I called to use my advantage to help others?
• Can I do that out of love and not pity, seeing the other for the child of God they are?
• How do I respond to the cultural voice?
months of effort,
prayer and help
the bright sun
shining on us
as we popped
open the tent,
hung the signs
crafts and began
the parking lot
and, with big
began to draw,
not have been