I’ve been thinking lately about my role as a humanitarian and–separately (until now)–my status in society as a white female from America. As a white, upper-middle class American, I am incredibly rich (though I often forget that) and have incredible opportunity to achieve my potential. I am one of the privileged few who can do more than exist. I will be more than a subsistence farmer, or a minimum wage worker. My job will impact society. I have power–and more importantly–the ability to grow that power through education, experience, and careful financial investments.
Today, I head a sermon which struck a chord with me–a young professional on the verge of my career. Pastor John McLarty of the Green Lake Church in Seattle was speaking on the passage in John 13:1-17 where Jesus washes his disciples feet. (You can see the video below.) He makes the point that by washing his disciples feet, Jesus was subverting his disciples understanding of status. As Pastor John summarizes, Jesus was saying, “Pour your status into others and you will be happy.” Pour your status into others….. an interesting turn of phrase. Pastor John goes on to describe people like kings and church leaders who pour their energy into keeping their power. How their subject suffer when kings won’t share their power with others.
So what happens when you share your status? You empower others. You give them the agency you enjoy. You make the world a better place. That’s what a humanitarian should be. I think I–as a privileged, educated American–have the responsibility to wield my power carefully. I should share my status with those that have none. I will not be afraid that my power and status will evaporate and leave me destitute because I will remember that God promised to give me strength and joy in return. Perhaps then, something good will come from White Privilege.
(begin at 30:13. I suggest you watch the whole sermon (about 20 minutes) because he says more good stuff that I didn’t talk about here.)