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Extending Privilege to All

Around the time the Trayvon Martin case was making headlines, I started thinking a lot about white privilege. When you’re white in a majority-white country, you don’t notice the myriad of things you take for granted, such as walking through a store without security guards trailing you. Or finding and renting an apartment (or buying a home) that you can afford in an area where you want to live. The list goes on and on; you can find lots of examples in the article, “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh.

One day last year, I took my daughter to the Staples Mill station shortly after she’d returned from Argentina, a place where she’d tried and failed to speak the language. She came away from the Amtrak counter beaming like a fool. “Why the smile?” I asked, and she gushed, “I told him where I wanted to go, and he understood me. Then he said a few things and I understood him. And look, here’s my ticket. It was so easy.” The relief she felt was palpable.

Ah, the things we take for granted. The ease of communication when both parties speak the same language. The ease of fitting in when you’re one of the majority. My daughter’s experience and the Trayvon Martin case remind me how easy my life is, including my ease in worshiping at GPPC. I’m oblivious to the stress that newcomers might feel. Or the lost-in-translation moments of non-native English speakers. Or the occasional disconnect that a visitor might feel if she’s been raised in a different faith tradition, or no faith tradition at all.

And what about hetero-privilege? Sometimes I wonder what I take for granted simply by virtue of having been born straight. Like falling in love with the sort of person my parents hoped I’d fall in love with. It didn’t take any effort on my part to be heterosexual. I just am. Why should that afford me and our heterosexual majority the right to make laws affecting those who just aren’t?

In January, I especially enjoyed GPPC’s discussions about LGBTQ issues, and ended up thinking about the fact that we have one unisex bathroom in our narthex, but I don’t believe we have any in the education building. What a privilege it is to feel safe in a public bathroom. What would it take for us to improve our most basic of services so that transgender folks might feel safe at GPPC?

I’m not offering any great insights here. I’m simply taking a moment to reflect on things that I take for granted, and at the same time, I’m feeling grateful that the GPPC blog is a place where I can ramble! I love that at GPPC we wrestle with worthwhile issues. We challenge and simultaneously uplift one another. We wrap our heads around faith and what it means to be faithful, and what faith calls us to do in the world. GPPC is a place where we can reflect on how privileged we are, and know that that reflection, itself—the awareness of privilege—may be the first step in extending privilege and hospitality to all.

Anne Westrick joined GPPC in 2000. Her four kids, who are now in their twenties, wish GPPC had had a “mosh pit” when they were growing up. Anne is a full-time writer who enjoys the empty (and busy) nest she shares with her husband, John.

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