We live in a world where light colored skin qualifies individuals to live with unearned advantages and power. This is referred to as “white privilege.” This concept; rather, reality, does not settle well with me, not just because I identify as white, but because I believe this status was originally intended for everyone. While some are satisfied ruminating in “the ultimate white privilege: privilege to have unearned privilege and ignore what that means” (Jensen, 1998), it is my heart’s desire for this to be restored.
While not a clear cut process, I’m encouraged I’m not the alone in willingness to engage with this injustice. S. Mei-Yen Hui’s piece, “Difficult Dialogues about Service Learning: Embrace the Messiness,” stands as evidence. She outlines how tricky this issue is to navigate as we must avoid reinforcing power differentials; and thus, perpetuating the problem indefinitely. Reading this struck a chord with me.
With regards to mission work, I have witnessed cases of people with Westernized privileges eagerly entering into a place with pure intentions to serve. Yet ultimately some of these endeavors were not entirely successful and even potentially detrimental to those they sought to serve as the position differential, culture, and true needs of the people were not assessed. Jordan Monson of Relevant Magazine tackles the question, do missions destroy culture? He establishes that while missionaries are human and thus flawed, many are making huge efforts and learning as they go. (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/mission/features/27492-do-missions-destroy-culture)
While potential for harm to be inflicted in the process of pursuing any type of justice is overwhelming, the need is too crucial to ignore. Hui posits “differences in privilege are not made less by not engaging in service.” She proposes ways to unravel the complex nature of this beast including participating in conversations and building relationships with those we serve. This aims to enable those in privileged positions to best represent the muted voices instead of imposing our voice on them. This opens the door for the needs of those deemed “less privileged” to be heard in raw form.
While the hierarchy of privileges ought to never have existed, it must be acknowledged and confronted. Although an intimidating feat, we must be willing to “embrace the messiness.” We are all entitled to hope.