2015: Life is not the Same for All of Us —Taking Steps to Share Power and Privilege

Fifth Sunday in Lent

2015: Life is not the Same for All of Us —Taking Steps to Share Power and Privilege
White privilege is as blatant as a neon sign for those who don't look away. Like the sign's letters, it is not right and is un-Christian.


God of early morning sunshine and late afternoon breezes, help us see Your presence all around us and know that every breath is a gift from You. Today we pray for Epworth Children and Family Services, St. Louis, MO. May their work be a conduit for peace and justice in the community and in the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Read Acts 6:1-6: Seven Chosen to Serve

There was inequity in the service received by some of the widows. Why? Was it because the “Hellenists” or Greek-speaking Jews were being treated differently from the Hebrew speaking Jews? Was it because there was a preference by native Hebrews for their own widows either by familiarity or intention? In time, the cry of the Hellenists was heard by the disciples, which prompted a re-designation of responsibilities for those working with the early church in that day. Devoted leaders were chosen and charged with administering to ALL the widows. Injustice was directly addressed by taking concrete measures to redistribute power and resources more evenly and justly. Together with those who lacked power, people with power and privilege made what was wrong right.

Often we as white people do not hear the cry of those who experience injustice. Do we even notice that others are not treated the same? In this case, the disciples did not notice, and this is the question that faces many of us. Privilege is something the dominant culture can disregard because they are not the ones who experience inequitable treatment. White privilege, for me as a white person, means that I expect to be treated fairly and I am. I expect the rules of our society to be applied justly and they are. What I fail to notice, though, is that many of my sisters of color are not treated the same. It has taken the cry and resistance of the discriminated and the personal testimonies of my sisters' experiences for me to recognize what I have long ignored – however unintentionally – that life is not the same for all of us. I have experienced the discrimination of economics, of education, of gender, of region but I have not experienced the discrimination of race. It is the ultimate frustration that judgments are made about persons based on traits they cannot control. And so it was with the widows in today’s passage. And so it is in our society today. Where do you hold power and privilege in your community? How can you work toward justly sharing your power and privilege?


Take time to talk with those in your unit, those in your church and those in your community about experiences of racism. If you are white, listen to the stories and hear them in your heart. If you are a person of color, tell your own stories – in as much as you are safe to do so – and allow their authenticity to resonate with others. Recognize, if you are a white person, that you have a privilege neither sought nor bought but real, that even though unintended or without request this privilege gives you generous benefits that are by consequence denied to many others. For all of us, too often your face determines your race and it impacts choices you can make, places you can go, the comfort you feel, the opportunities you have – it affects everything. If you are a person of color, understand that racism exists, but refuse to let that be the end of the story. Talk to each other. If you are a white person, a first step is understanding your privilege and also the power you have because of it. Consider ways to accept your privilege and explore ways to share the power it brings. If you are a person of color, look for ways to remind others of the consequences of having race as a determining factor in who has power, access and resources.


Exploring how and why power and privilege by and for white people was imbedded into all of the institutions of our society is a key step in beginning to undo systemic racism, a primary aim in realizing a racially just world. Throughout United Methodist Women’s history, white women have struggled through the challenging terrain of acknowledging and accepting their unearned privileges and have worked within the institution and the wider church and world to topple unjust structures and rebuild new and fairer ones.

Use the following resources to read, reflect, remember and plan:

  • Read and Reflect:

  • Remember and Plan:
    • Revisit the United Methodist Women Racial Justice Timeline (free on unitedmethodistwomen.org/store) to recall the ways in which our foremothers were catalysts for change in their communities. If you have a Charter for Racial Justice team, using their work as an example, draft a plan, with your team, to take one step toward making your unit, district or conference a more racially just place. Some examples might be: committing to doing a racial justice training for your unit, district or conference leadership team once a year, or researching and joining with a group in your community that does advocacy work on a key racial justice issue in your area. Each time your Charter Committee meets, refine the plan and take another step toward implementing it.

Janis Rosheuvel is executive for racial justice for United Methodist Women.
Julie Taylor served as United Methodist Women’s executive for Spiritual Growth.


Posted or updated: 3/18/2015 11:00:00 PM