I don’t play the lottery. Largely, because I don’t find gambling entertaining, butI am also aware that I have already won a big lottery. I was born white, male, and healthy into an affluent family in the United States of America in the middle of the 20th century. That was a chance occurrence that has “paid off” for me. I didn’t earn it and I don’t deserve it, but winning this lottery has given me social, cultural and political privileges that continue to pay dividends for me.
It is very unusual that I ever walk into a place and don’t receive a genuine welcome. People assume I am honest, trustworthy, and safe. When I am pulled over for speeding the officer gives me a relaxed smile. There are lots more examples. Not every person gets that kind of reception. I don’t have to prove my honesty, it is given to me because of my cultural and ethnic background. Most of the time I don’t even think about it. I have come to assume I will have this privilege wherever I go. When I am not accorded this privilege, I am shocked and offended.
It is important for me to remember that this privilege comes purely as a matter of chance. My culture and ethnic background are not superior to that of others. I don’t own more of this country, because of this cultural privilege, than any other American. I don’t have a greater right to these assumptions about me because I am white. My identity is not tied tightly to this privilege. I am not defined by this privilege.
Our principle identity is as child of God. We are defined by the grace and mercy that we have received from God. We didn’t earn this or deserve it either, but God is more generous than our culture is, so this is given to all people. This identity and worth is not something that can be taken from us. All we can do is enjoy it and follow God’s lead and live with all others as brothers and sisters in Christ. Part of following God’s lead is refusing to allow anyone to tell people of color that they don’t count as much as white people count; that their culture doesn’t count like white culture counts; or that they don’t belong in this country as much as white people do.