As a White Woman from Utah & Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I experienced a great shift & hope my sharing may encourage others to start their own journey.
For a long time, even after these shifts, I didn’t think there was a need to be sorry or apologize. I didn’t want to say sorry just because I saw others doing it. I wasn’t racist. I don’t believe in slavery. I personally didn’t do anything wrong. I was simply ignorant. That’s not a crime. These are the things I thought.
But after reflecting more, I have come to realize no, I was in the wrong. As I was so beautifully reminded again yesterday, intent doesn’t matter so much here. Not because others don’t care what your intent is, and they just want you to agree with them. No. It is because not understanding, not meaning to, is the very root of the problem.
I have spent my life surrounded by and breathing air, not ever really noticing it was there and how it was supporting my life. Not meaning to breathe the air, doesn’t matter. Thinking others were foolish for crying out and wanting air too, that does. Why was I not more willing to stop and try to help? Why was I so resistant to being told I was lucky to have air to breathe?
For that I am deeply, truly sorry.
“ ...I am deeply, truly sorry."
I have watched and seen other white people post and share apologies and all the above mentioned things ran through my head. I honestly didn’t think I would experience this same sorrow and need to apologize others were.
Yes was I abhorred by the blatant disregard for life when it came to George Floyd and many others, absolutely. But feeling sorrow for my life as a white woman, that seemed… foolish.
As such it definitely came as somewhat of a surprise that during my personal meditation and prayer this morning I found deep sorrow in my soul.
I am still exploring what it means, and all the reasons it is there. But I wanted to start by acknowledging it and expressing how sorry I am.
My heart has never gone out more to the Black community, and a desire for things to change. The many burdens you deal with that I do not, simply because I was born a different color, are unacceptable.
You should not have too. It is not about me being bad for not experiencing a life where I had those same concerns simply because I am white, it is about how unjust and unfair it is that you have ever had to carry these burdens in the first place! They never should have been there, and things need to change so you don’t have to any more.
“ It is not about me being bad for not experiencing a life where I had those same concerns simply because I am white, it is about how unjust and unfair it is that you have ever had to carry these burdens in the first place! They never should have been there, and things need to change so you don’t have to any more."
Understanding & Accepting My Privilege
Privilege. Today it seems like a buzz word. As a white person it can often feels like it is used as an attack, a way to say I am a horrible person for simply being who I am, no matter how good of a person I try to be.
The purpose is not to attack me as a white person (though I understand there are definitely those who do. But I personally think it is important to start by separating the what and the why from the who and the how, when it comes to understanding an issue like this.)
I’ll admit. This is definitely a place that I am still working through the discomfort. Privilege. Privilege. I am privileged.
Each year as I grow older and experience more of life I realize how blessed I am. I am blessed to have been born into a developed nation. I was blessed to be born in the United States where I enjoy many freedoms. I was blessed to be born into a middle class family. I was blessed with educated parents. I was blessed with parents who knew the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I was blessed to be raised with confidence and taught how to foster relationships. I was blessed to be raised that men and women are different yet equal, and that no good man would treat me in a way that put himself above me. I was blessed to know I have power, and a voice, and the ability to choose and think for myself.
I chose to use the word blessed here, because it is one I am currently more comfortable with, and others may be too.* Walking through my discomfort I am beginning to realize the word privilege belongs where I have used “blessed”. That this is actually, a large part of what is meant by saying I am privileged (along with others!). And for some reason it seems easier to say I am blessed, or “had the opportunity”, than it is to say I am privileged.
I think the reasoning has two main components:
1. I have decided that being privileged means I am bad. So naturally I resist thinking that I am privileged. I don’t want to be bad, nor do I believe I am. This is an incorrect thought and doesn't serve me. It is one I've been cleaning up!
2. The second factor is actually a part of being blessed or privileged. I was taught to think for myself, to make my own decisions, and not let what others say or do influence me. I think as a white person it can often feel like there is a very real threat that if I start to make these shifts I am going to end up losing myself and just “going with the crowd” and let the loudest voices tell me what to think and what to do. I am not letting this happen. But in this case, I believe I was in the wrong and I do need to continue to learn and grow and change.
For that I want to express my deepest heartfelt sorrow. I believe we are each brothers and sisters, children of God and that we have a responsibility to be there for one another. I believe this is one area where I have not been willing to do that, and that unwillingness has added to the problem, to which I am so sorry.
(*I kept the word blessed instead of using privileged not because I think we shouldn’t use the word privileged, but rather because it is important. Language has power. Words matter. In becoming a coach I have learned that sometimes when a word is too charged for us, we can’t see the meaning when the word is used, so taking it out until one becomes comfortable with the concept first can help ease the thought transition process. This is my purpose here, NOT to minimize the use of the word privilege. I actually intentionally wrote it out many time before when I said I was uncomfortable with it, to help my own self become more and more comfortable using it.)
I was taught that because I was so blessed I had a responsibility to carry on these blessings. To teach my children and bless their lives. Today in my personal study and conversation with God, I felt Him say to me, “Yes, but all M Y children deserve to experience these blessings, not just yours.”
“Today in my personal study and conversation with God, I felt Him say to me, “Yes, but all M Y children deserve to experience these blessings, not just yours.”
Privilege in the Church
Being raised a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and having a family history that goes back to the early days of the pioneers, the church is also very much my culture. You could say I was privileged in the church to have the heritage I do.*
(*Making a comparison here to the culture of the church is not meant to minimize the experience of Black America nor take away from the responsibility we have to help them.
I do think though, everything going on right now is actually helping to teach us good ways to start having conversations, to start listening better, and to start doing more in all areas of our lives, whether it be as an ally to Blacks, in our personal families and relationships, or yes, as a member of Christ’s church.)
I was also raised that especially because of this, I had a responsibility to teach others what I knew about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To share with them the things that make my life easier.
I bring this up not to mix church and politics and be controversial, but because there is a similarity and having something familiar to draw upon has helped me shift even more.
I married a man where even though he was born in the church, it was not his culture. I have watched and we have worked through many things as a result of this difference. I have learned many things through the experience. I’ve better been able to see what it is like to be “on the outside”, to not “fit in”, to have others often unknowingly “look down” on you- even and perhaps especially, in an effort to help simply because they themselves didn’t fully understand.
Through our efforts and our commitment to each other and our relationship I’ve also learned some beautiful things about working with differences:
1. It can be messy. That’s okay. We are human and imperfect. Don’t let that deter you.
2. It is worth it. I don’t think I’d say my husband and I have “arrived”, and we may never in this life. But our efforts have created a richness in our life I wouldn’t trade.
3. Focusing on the principles, the common ground, getting back to the basics helped us. Focusing on the “right way” to do things, thinking there is only one path often clouded and caused more pain. When we were more concerned about hitting certain destinations we both knew were important, rather than which route to take there it was smoother.
Now I don’t pretend to be qualified in any way to be a leader right now in saying how to best go about dealing with my privilege as a white woman. I believe education from those who know, our Black sisters and brothers, is the first step.
And so while the path is different when it comes to my privilege of being born and raised in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and my privilege of being born and raised a white middle class woman in the USA, I do believe they share certain principles.
1. Love must come first. Without love, any effort will fall flat. With love even the smallest of steps will be magnified in the change that can occur.
2. We must be willing to have conversations. Sometimes we need to speak and sometimes we need to listen. Learning and being willing to do both is important.
As I bring my current thoughts to a close on my experience thus far, (I know I am just getting started) one last idea has really stood out to me:
"There is something really wrong with you."
is N O T the same as
"You are a bad person."
We often mix these two things up; quite frankly because it is easy to do!
In both cases we do feel terrible. And in both cases they often feel very true.
Here is the difference:
"You have value, you are worthy. But you have an area you need to change, that is not aligned with you living as your best self. It's time you know this and start to make a change. It is why I am here."
"You are nothing. You are worthless. You will never be worthy. You feel terrible because you are terrible and you should just give up now. You are a horrible human being and should be ashamed."
This first example is what Christ does for each of us. I believe it is the message He carries when calling us to repent, or to change our hearts.
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we have a second book of scripture we believe in with the Bible called The Book of Mormon; Another Testament of Jesus Christ.
In it is the story of a man named Alma who I believe went through this type of experience, and what he teaches later has been strong on my own soul as I pondered today and will share part of it here if you are interested for your own study.
In Alma 5 he is teaching and asks those who belong to the church if they have "sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers?"
He then goes on to say how God "changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word;"
"...and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love...
And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved?
...Behold, I can tell you— ...according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart.
And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved.
And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church... Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?"
I hope to continue to change my own heart that I may ever show up more loving, more kind, more like my Savior.