Look at this kid. I think her parents have been teaching her some skills in finance and project management. She can market her project and make it from fresh ingredients. She also looks like a girl who knows her way around a book. I wonder what she likes to read. We white people have strengths. Our parents tend to invest time and money in our learning certain cultural skills, and these skills form a foundation for entrepreneurial initiative, for example. We all know what a “lemonade stand” is and many of us had similar childhood projects.
To be whole persons, coming from a white cultural background, I think we need to acknowledge and build on our strengths, the gifts we’ve been given. Who among us knows how to do less of a negative thing? I try to be antiracist, and I just end up thinking more about racism. But did you grow up valuing fairness? It’s easier for us work towards being more fair, more inclusive, more just. As followers of Jesus, we want to do a lot more than simply being fair – we want to live out his love for each beautiful human being that God created. We want to offer the dignity and respect that God offers each one. To really live as white people who are followers of Jesus in a multiethnic world, we also have to be willing to learn about other peoples’s experiences and grow.
However, God invites us to move past “fairness.” When one group of people live in abundance at the expense of other people’s flourishing, we end up on the wrong side of God’s justice. The prophet warned God’s people about those of us who have “treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, peace’, when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14). On the topic of financial management, for example, generations of white veterans received G.I. benefits to help them get an education and mortgages (the G.I. bill was originally written to exclude people of color). If this young lady’s family has been in the United States a long time, her family may have been given land (taken from Latino and Native peoples). Our whole economy benefited from the unpaid slave labor of African Americans and underpaid labor of Chinese people in the West). When their work ended, those laborers were not given education or land, like the veterans. So while we admire her industry, let’s also be aware that she functions in a system of inequity – it’s not her fault, she didn’t create it, but she will benefit from it.