One of the evils of society that Christians should and do fight against is the evil of racism. Racism is a great evil in that it destroys the unity of humanity, and divides people. It destroys the image of God in others, by causing people to hate and distrust one another because of the color of their skin. Racism is the idea that one race is superior or inferior to another, which is of course completely false.
In the word of God we see that really the only distinction God viewed in humanity was the distinction between Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews). But even then, once the new covenant came, and Jesus Christ won the victory for us on the cross, we see a foundational scripture that declares a total unity in the body of Christ.
It's found in Galatians 3:28 which states,"You are all one in Christ." There are no more prior distinctions, like male or female, slave or free, or Jew or gentile. The body of Christ is a unity. It's one body.
Recently in society, particularly in the west, the label of "white privilege" has begun to spread throughout some sectors of society, usually in larger cities. Is this a label and ideology that the Christian church should adopt in fighting racism? Why or why not?
The idea of white privilege is to show that people of color, are systemically oppressed, or disadvantaged in western society. The idea is that Anglo-Saxon peoples are born with privilege in society, people whose heritage is from Europe, such as Poland, France, Great Britain, Sweden, Holland, Germany, Russia, and so on.
The American ideal is that all people should be treated equally. That is the hope that was enshrined in the declaration of independence, and it was implemented to varying degrees, imperfectly, until the modern time. Of course people aren't always treated equally. One example is of course slavery in the past, and after that Jim Crow laws, that kept races separate. Sixty years after the abolition of such laws, we continue to see the debate rage in American society about mistreatment of people of color.
Is it true that people of color are treated fundamentally different in western society? Some say yes, and some say no. Many would point to police brutality toward African-American young men. Others point out that when looking at statistics nationwide, more white people are killed by police than black each year per capita. Others say that racism went underground after Jim Crow and continues to be a constant struggle in society. Still others say that the election of President Barack Obama was a signal that society had moved into a new era of racial peace and equity. Overall, there are arguments on both sides that have decent support. Is there inequity? Probably in some aspects of society, and probably not in others.
But let's set aside the question of if it's actually true. Because the more pertinent question for us is, does saying "white privilege" and telling people to "check their privilege" help anyone? To me the answer to that question has to be no.
When someone indicates "white privilege" one of two things will happen. Either a person of color will believe that society is fundamentally racist, and that white people are fundamentally oppressing them. This contributes to a mindset of victim-hood. And when someone views themselves as a victim, very little good can come from that. A victim mentality often leads to a self-defeating mindset that one is can't hope to escape the evils of racism and inequity in society, and thus they shouldn't try. Instead they can quickly become self-defeated, and pessimistic, and even hostile toward society.
The other situation is that well-meaning white people become guilt-ridden, and disturbed, and in the worst case, they can become hostile, and begin to believe that people of color hate them, and are racist toward them. This is not a good thing my friends.
When the label of white privilege comes up, fundamentally, it divides people. It causes people of color to view the world as fundamentally racist and hostile, and it can cause white people to take on self-defeating guilt, and even hostility. The label of white privilege does not sow peace, or unity. Instead it sows division, and divides people against each other. It divides whites against blacks, it divides blacks against whites, it divides Asians against whites, whites against Latinos, and on and on the list goes. It sows guilt, hostility, hatred, racism, and division.
Instead of pushing the concept of 'white privilege' we as the church should proclaim the concept of 'unity in Christ.' We should insist on total unity and equity between all believers in Christ. We should call our people to reach out to people who are in need. But we should fundamentally work for unity, whites, blacks, Asians, Latinos, and all peoples uniting as a single unity, a single body of Christ. We are one. We are one people, undivided. I don't even like using these labels of white and black and Latino and so on. It just subconsciously promotes more disunity and division. We are one people. And we must treat each other with love, truth, equality, and liberty. The best way to do that is to promote unity in love, not the resentment, hate, and divisiveness of concepts like "white privilege."
In a time of mounting seemingly endless disharmony, disunity, and polarization, we must work twice as hard as Christians to promote love, compassion, forgiveness, equality, and unity in these times. Remember, we are one body, the body of Christ, and though we are diverse elements of this body, we are fundamentally a united body of Christ.