by Diane Miller
I have been reading about injustice and pondering my privileges as a white person within certain systems in my city, Chicago. Our city is very segregated. I see it and feel it in situations where I know I can freely do some things that others cannot.
As a curious person, I also have sought to understand how others think and live, especially children. I am sure my heart or burden for kids comes from my heritage. My mom grew up in poverty and my dad had an undiagnosed learning disability. As an adult, I see how those two hardships greatly affected their individual well-being and our family. I deeply ponder how I live as a highly educated white person and how people like myself might turn our privilege into empowerment of others. It seems like that is standing for justice… something Dr. King challenged Americans to do as an avocation in the 60’s.
So, what are the injustices I see? Well, for one, the opportunity to go to a good school. That is a privilege in my city with the education systems that are in place. Receiving a good education here is for kids whose parents can navigate paperwork and/or bureaucracy, have money to go to private schools, or the means to transport their children to a good-rated school outside of their under-resourced neighborhood. That is called systemic injustice… it is an unjust system because all parents do not have equal access to either private or good-rated public schools for their children.
It seems that people with privilege could help to change that system, but it is a hard choice. Many privileged in my city work downtown or around the world. They drive or fly home to a resourced neighborhood or suburb, as I used to. It is part of living a comfortable and prosperous lifestyle. So, how are people encouraged to have an avocation for justice by maybe living different? I’m not sure… many like and feel entitled to their lifestyle as reward for hard work. It has become somewhat American. And, it’s hard to lower comfort standards with our ingrained work ethic, extreme academic focus and celebrated individualism. We’re achievers, it’s part of our American heritage…we work hard to pursue our dreams. It seems natural to feel entitled to a certain lifestyle. I so own this and am struggling to get out of the parts of my lifestyle that Jesus did not seem to model.
One of the women whose blog I follow looks at her everyday choices through the view of her neighborhood. She lives in a Christian order with the poor in her city. When I compare her outlook to mine, I think I have a long way to go in living and loving my cultural and socio-economic blend of neighbors. She makes her life decisions based around 2 questions:
Is what I want readily available for my neighbor?
Is what I want good for my neighbor?
If you live in a neighborhood with folks in your same socio-economic status, these are not hard questions. But, if you are highly educated or have a good income, these questions become harder if you live in a blended or low income neighborhood. For me, I realize that I have bought into some Western ideas in my life that give me an entitlement mindset. My life decisions are not all based around having an avocation for justice. I feel like I am entitled to own certain things, travel, dress and even eat in a way that some of my neighbors cannot. Hmm… I think I may have a long way to go in digging out my American entitlement trench of many privileges.
Does anyone else out there struggle with this? What are you doing to redefine prosperity and empower yourselves and others into a more holistic Jesus-style American dream life?