Thursday, November 1, 2007

White Privilege

Third in a series of posts from the UUA October Board meeting

I am still pondering something that happened during the UUA board meeting a few weeks ago.

I am well acquainted with the concept of privilege as something relatively unrecognized by the one who has it. I remember being a 26 year old telephone installation supervisor, the only female supervisor in a garage of men, being shown how to check the oil on my truck by my well-meaning manager.

I had been changing the oil in trucks since I was 14.

My boss did not mean to be unkind – it was just assumed that I would not know because I was a woman. This happened repeatedly, sometimes fairly and sometimes not. It was not until I started going out for a few beers on Friday afternoons with my male counterparts, and got to know them well enough for them to be honest, that I found out they didn’t know a lot of stuff either. But because people assumed a big strapping guy with a firm handshake and hearty voice did know what he was doing, he was seldom called on the carpet to prove it.

But back to the Board meeting.

Somewhat to our dismay, the Board has learned that the security conditions surrounding the Fort Lauderdale General Assembly site still include the need for a government issued photo ID. Viewed primarily as an annoyance by most of us, it meant something different to most if not all of our board members of color.

I have personally not been singled out for special security measures because of my color or ethnicity, nor jerked from a car and pushed on the ground because I was in the wrong neighborhood, nor questioned suspiciously about my citizenship at a border crossing. If I had, I might not be so cavalier about how “normal” this was in this day and age (try flying lately?) or so quick to feel confident that the people in charge would insure nothing bad happened. And I might – just might – try not to “fix” the pain reflected in these experiences.

I also have not lost substantial numbers of family and friends to violence, whether it is in urban neighborhoods, the Holocaust, or current genocides. There is much pain here.

A phrase sticks with me from a workshop at the Portland General Assembly: “The soul does not need to be fixed. The soul needs to be heard.” As I told one of the participants, I learned something from the Board exchange that I will continue to think about – I am just sorry that I learned it at someone else’s expense.

I did hear you.

1 comment:

Andy Hansen said...

Nice blog, Linda. Cilla Raughley alerted me to it through PCD Currents, and as usual, her recommendation was very worthwhile.

Thank you for this useful way of bringing the UUA Board to us.

Andy Hansen
Starr King UU Church
Hayward, CA