a question from a straight white christian male without a voice…


To date, this is the post I am most ashamed of ever having written on this blog. It perpetuates power dynamics and long-held ways of thinking that add to problems and ignore their structures. This post participates in a system of injustice and “not listening”. It’s a profound exercise in missing the point in these issues. I keep it up as a reminder to myself and others of how wrong-headed and dumb I can be. I’m sorry for these words, and I’m grateful for your grace.

________________________

I find myself in an awkward time in our current news cycle. As part of the most talked-about news items of late, we have birth-control (and by extension, abortion), racial tensions over the death of Trayvon Martin, gay marriage being approved and some states and vetoed in others, the health care law going before the Supreme Court, and a Philadelphia ban on the public feeding of the homeless.

Is it possible for me, as a (relatively) middle-class white Protestant male, to communicate opinions about these topics if I don’t share the same sentiments as most others?

I live in a lot of fear when it comes to some of these things. I have the un-asked-for privilege of being born an American white male, raised in middle-class suburban America. But I also have the un-asked-for difficulty of living in a time where that “privilege” is a liability when it comes to some issues, it seems.

I don’t like sitting idly by in my existence; I want to truly engage with life. I don’t want stay far off making judgments about things; I want enter into them. That’s one of the reasons why this white suburban-raised male is now an urban-dwelling social worker whose neighbors, co-workers, and clients are mostly minorities, many of whom are females.

But with engagement come perspective. And with perspective comes opinions. And this is where my “privilege” begins to lose its luster.

I struggle with this a lot. I have posts I want to write on abortion, racism, welfare, and the state of homelessness in Philadelphia. But it seems like every article I read dismisses the opinion of any white male with a home and health insurance on account that he apparently can’t see past his privilege and think in a clear and nuanced way about these things.

I hope that I have cultivated some sort of skill (and humility) as both a thinker and a communicator and, hopefully, this blog is a testament to that. I read so many articles from so many different perspectives. I listen to so many podcasts from the culture- and opinion-makers of our day. I discuss these ideas with those around me. I hear their counter statements and refine myself in light of them. I constantly question and test my assumptions, trying to build some sort of consistency in my worldview.

Could I be bold enough to try and humbly say I think I have gained some sort of nuance and clarity in my thinking on issues of the day?

Is it arrogant or narrow-minded of me to think that I could speak on these issues, especially if what I want to say counters the loudest voices screaming their passionate counterpoints?

Help me out here. Do you think I can speak to these things? If so, how might someone go about saying them from my perspective in a way that could actually be received and considered by those that the issue is most relevant to?

Leave your thoughts in the comment field below. And thanks.

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12 thoughts on “a question from a straight white christian male without a voice…

  1. My opinion Paul is that you should alway speak your mind. Never, ever, ever, censor yourself. Especially on your blog. With every writing will come criticism. But that’s the nature of the blogging beast. You can defend it or you can let it slide off. Thick skin.

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  2. I don’t really read your blog, Paul (no offense), so I don’t know all the other things you’ve written about. However, I think that in engaging the conversation and writing about it is to talk to some folks that don’t share the same standpoint as you do, as opposed to reading articles, and bringing that into your blog. Interviews, essentially — more questions and curiosity than anything else. Folks may still dismiss your blog and what you have to say, that will happen no matter how delicately you try to engage the conversation.

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  3. Acknowledging your privilege is a big step. Also be aware that your readers might not be conscious of their privilege. I think I understand how you feel a little because as an urban teacher I experience a lot of things that I want to share, but that sadly I don’t trust a lot of people to read these experiences because they are unaware of their own privilege. If they don’t understand WHY my students push back against authority, my stories will only further their racist and classist opinions.

    What I’m trying to say is, you have a right to say what you are experiencing and many of your readers will appreciate your acknowledging your own unearned privilege. Perhaps a white male voice attempting to explain this privilege is exactly what the blogosphere needs.

    Take care and good luck.
    Amelia

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  4. Paul, as a fellow believer in Christ…the opinions (I’m guessing) that you would share would be based in scripture & would only serve to ultimately point people back to Jesus. So the question is then, why wouldn’t you? You are just helping people to understand Christ’s perspective on issues & the freedom having a relationship with Him offers.

    Isaiah 55:8-10
    New International Version (NIV)
     8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
       neither are your ways my ways,”
                declares the LORD.
    9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
       so are my ways higher than your ways
       and my thoughts than your thoughts.

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  5. There’s more to be said than this simple response, but this is an important place to start:

    As a taxpayer, you’re being asked to provide resorces that will fund much of what you mentioned for those who don’t share in your “privilege” so I wouldn’t think it unreasonable for you to expect to have a moment on the soapbox to say what you think about how you money’s being spent.

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  6. Paul, I could not agree with Christy more. She is absolutely on point in my opinion. Also, knowing you personally, I know your heart for the Gospel. Speak and blog your words from that standpoint. In doing so you will glorify God and make your view known. The whole Trayvon Martin incident was tough for me to see, but not because he was an African-American male (as am I) but because it was a life tragically lost.

    So, Paul, whatever you say, say it while keeping the message of the Gospel in mind. It’s guaranteed that folks will disagree with you. It’s guaranteed folks will rebuttal in anger, but at the end of the day it’s you standing up for what’s right.

    Be well, brother.

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  7. Hi Paul,
    Anyone who expresses their opinions on issues impacting anything outside their personal, private lives (be the issues political, social, or religious) will always have their words scrutinized by others. Those who read or hear your opinions are likely to consider how your personal circumstances (including those not-chosen) have influenced the formation of your perspective. It’s not a good or a bad thing, it just kind of is.

    Anyone taking their voice to a public platform (such as a blog) will face this, regardless of education, race, gender, sexual orientation, or creed. If you are willing to see the reactions of others as a chance to create (potentially positive?) dialog, and a chance to engage with others, I think that’s what makes public discourse worth it–for everyone involved.

    And as an educated, middle-class, Christian, straight, white male, sure, you are stigmatized by labels. Can you think of anyone who isn’t? We all have to own up to the things in our lives that shape the way we think and the choices we make (at the same time, trying not to simply let those labels propagate the habitual choices of our peers without giving them due consideration).

    Your demographic may be why some people will dismiss your voice. (That’ll be the case for everyone.) But your demographic isn’t half bad! You’re still more likely to be heard–our society as a whole has not changed to a point there white males are no longer given predominance. You’ve got something meaningful to say? Good! Go for it! You’ve got listeners!

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  8. Pingback: The Gospel Coalition & Sex as Conquest: Jared Wilson, you’re better than this {1} | the long way home

  9. Pingback: A Baby Step Against My Latent Racism (And Maybe Yours?) | the long way home | Prodigal Paul

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