My wife and I recently moved to the Las Vegas valley and, in addition to the oppressive heat, we immediately noticed the surrounding mountains. Running down the west side of Las Vegas, the Spring Mountains boast a noticeably prominent 12,000 foot summit – Mt Charleston. It’s kind of hard to miss.
Mt. Charleston was still covered in snow when we first moved and I couldn’t help but notice it every single day. It was magnificent and quite alluring as an alternative to the incredible heat in the valley!
Slowly, however, I stopped noticing the mountain. Maybe I got comfortable. Maybe I got distracted. Maybe I subconsciously ignored it. Whatever happened, the mountain became natural. Normal. Expected.
It wasn’t until a friend mentioned Mt. Charleston in a conversation that I was reminded of its presence. Even though I had forgotten about it, the Great White Mountain never left the skyline. It remained a permanent feature of my life in the valley whether I recognized it or not.
As a white man, I’ve long labored under a similar shortsightedness when it came to the color of my skin. I’ve lived under the shadow of a Great White Privilege that I’ve been completely oblivious to.
· I can rent/buy a home in whatever neighborhood I want without disqualification because of my skin.
· I can imagine myself in whatever social/professional role without wondering whether or not someone of my skin color would be accepted.
· I can expect a generally uneventful experience with law enforcement during my day.
· I can be highly certain that all members of my family will safely return after leaving the house.
For a long time I assumed that every person in America was privileged to these same “unearned assets.”
But then two friends, John and Darrell, challenged my assumption.
John is an entrepreneur – working to secure funding for minority-run businesses. Darrell is a police officer – working to suppress local gang activity.
Both men are black.
As race issues started rising in my awareness, these two men generously and patiently helped me discover my blindspots. As it turned out, I was painfully unaware of many things.
They opened my eyes to the lived experience of the black community. John talked me through Jim Crow laws and how they directly affected his family over the years. Darrell helped me understand the difficulties between law enforcement and the black community.
As they explained things to me, I was shocked. How could I have been so uninformed? This wasn’t the news media twisting stories. These were personal accounts from my friends. I knew then that I needed to keep my mouth shut and my ears open.
I’m grateful for John and Darrell. If not for them, I would remain oblivious to the lived experiences of my black and brown neighbors. Their gentle, patient challenge transformed my perceptions and helped me see reality a little more clearly.
I don’t know where you are today.
· Maybe you are like I used to be, oblivious to the Great White Privilege you enjoy as a white person in America. If so, then I’d encourage you to take a humble step of growth and seek to understand the lived experience of our black/brown neighbors. That’s a good first step.
· Maybe you’ve already taken the initial step of understanding, but you’ve grown cold and not leveraged your understanding towards action. If so, then I encourage you to find a way to act. Love of neighbor compels us to do something. The Good Samaritan knew a need and met a need.
· Maybe you’ve already understood the issues and taken action, but you’re disillusioned with other people who have not. If so, then keep sharing with them. But inasmuch as you are firm and convicted, be gentle and patient. John and Darrell were for me and I’m a changed man because of it.
Wherever you are in the process, I encourage you to take the next step. Now is the time for courage – to understand, act, and persuade. Jesus is standing in the crowd of our black and brown neighbors and beckoning us to join with them and stand against the injustices they experience. Will you join him?