Growing up, I lived an upper-middle class life in a beautiful home in the country. I had more than enough of everything I could’ve ever wanted. My parents were hard workers (still are) and saved well; they were able to send us to concerts, summer camps, missions trips, class trips abroad and family vacations, and we participated in whatever sports/art/music activities we wanted. Graduating third in my class in high school, I went on to attend college at a private, Christian, liberal arts university. I’m grateful for all of these opportunities, and in part, they’ve made me who I am today: a privileged and educated woman.
When we first moved to the city, however, I didn’t realize that my privilege could be a problem. I didn’t realize how it colored my view of people who grew up differently than me, how I interpreted everything through the lens of my own experience and judged accordingly. I didn’t notice how I subconsciously began to categorize people: the tatted up ones with big gold necklaces and low-hanging jeans, the moms in dirty pajama pants screaming at their kids in the street, and the thin, frail women roaming the street or the men walking home with another 12-pack. How the labels I put on them made all their other qualities much harder to see.
I remember thinking, “those people” need me. The ones who don’t know how to speak in proper english or resolve an argument without cursing, screaming, and starting a fight. The ones who bounce from relationship to relationship and have multiple children on welfare from different baby daddies. The ones who call screaming at their children or letting them fend for themselves all day “parenting.” I could go on.
But do you know what privilege taught me about “those people,” what it’s like to live a day in their shoes, their struggles, or the myriad of complexities that keep them from thriving? Not a damn thing.
Because the thing about privilege is it can easily become pride.
It has the potential to be divisive and blinding.
Privilege can be narrow-minded and condemning.
It can hide self-righteousness and perpetuate selfishness.
Privilege can hinder diversity and degrade culture.
It can harbor judgement and name incorrectly.
Privilege can be ignorance masquerading as experience.
It can be deceptive, fostering a feeling of undeserved superiority.
Privilege sees so little of the big picture.
The only kind of privilege that can change a city is one wielded in humility. And I had a lot to learn about that...
This post is part of a series I’m writing for the month of October called, 31 Ways God Paved the Road to Urban Missions. If you’re interested in the reading the rest of the series, you can find it here. To receive these posts directly in your inbox every week, subscribe below!