Category Archives: urban ministry

White Privilege

I’m a huge fan of Dr. Ruby Payne’s A Framework for Understanding Poverty, as well as the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets, both of which point out characteristics, knowledge, etc. that can make children more likely to succeed.  On a broad level, both point out how certain privileges have the ability to totally change trajectory of a person’s life.  As such, it only makes sense that I’d be so intrigued by what I’m about to share.

I’m working on a training session for a friend talking about effective youth ministry in a group that is fairly diverse racially and socioeconomically.  While doing some research, I stumbled across Peggy McIntosh’s 1989 paper, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.  It’s remarkable, if not a little sad, really, that her paper is still so applicable over 20 years later.  The paper is fantastic; I feel like I could quote every sentence, however, I’ll just start with a few that set the tone of the rest of the piece.

“I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege. I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was “meant” to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools , and blank checks.”


My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture. I was taught to see myself as an individual whose moral state depended on her individual moral will. My schooling followed the pattern my colleague Elizabeth Minnich has pointed out: whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work that will allow “them” to be more like ‘us’.”

McIntosh then goes on to list what she calls the “Daily Effects of White Privilege,” a list of 50 benefits she has identified that are racially specific (although, as she also notes, it is generally impossible to totally remove socioeconomic status, religion, etc. from the equation).  I highly recommend reading all 50, however, I have highlighted the 11 that struck me as the most poignant at this point in my life.

 5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.

13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.

15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection. 

17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.

20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race. 

21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.

30. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn’t a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have.

34. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking. 

 39. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race.

42. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race.

 I can certainly add my own to this list.  Off the top of my head, when I tell people I live in Glenwood, they assume it’s a choice, and not that it’s the only area I can afford.  It doesn’t matter if this assumption is true or not (or does it?).  As a white person interested in race, as opposed to being seen as self-interested (#34), one is seen as a social activist.

McIntosh goes on to discuss the fact that simply “knowing” that whites are privileged (or any other group for that matter) isn’t enough to change the system.  The easy way out is to say that we just need to change our attitude.  She doesn’t really offer any tangible ideas, but invites the reader to consider what they will do with this knowledge.  I certainly don’t have the answers, but the word I keep coming back to is intentional.  An attitude of “inequality is unfair” is all well and good, and might even lead you to take a few stands for what’s right.  Usually, though, this attitude stays in the back of our minds, and our actions are apathetic at best.

Of course, this doesn’t even address the fact that when most people use the term racism, we use it to narrowly represent only blacks and whites, overlooking the inclusion of many other ethnicities.  I’d argue that McIntosh’s list is fairly black/white-focused, as well.

“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”  — Martin Luther King, Jr.

We have to be intentional in creating change, not just believing in it.

It’s been a while…

Two and a half years, actually.  Posting here has been on my mind more lately as I stumble my way through my latest adventure — serving as School Administrator for Hope Academy.  It’s the job I’ve always wanted. Eight years into ministry & life in Glenwood, and I finally have a full-time job here.  It’s been way more intense and demanding than I ever expected.  It’s also been a more perfect fit for my skill-set than I ever have imagined.  Every day it becomes increasingly evident that God has been preparing me for such a day as this, and I’m so grateful that He did.

Hope Academy is a private, Christ-based middle school for kids in Glenwood.  Now that Glenwood has my full attention (and is no longer being fit in after work & on weekends), I am thinking more and more about this work that we’re called to.  Thinking more about generational cycles. Thinking about race relations. Thinking youth ministry. Thinking about more things than I can possibly list here.

Looking back over posts from the last several years, I’ve realized that God taught me a lot while writing on this blog.  It only seems fair to continue to process here, if only so that I can go back and remember later.

Excerpt from Jonathan Kozol’s “Amazing Grace”

“The message of the gospel is unalterably clear. ‘Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away.’ Those are the words of Jesus.” No exception, she notes, is made for the stranger who talks too loud in crowded trains, or who may be partially deceiving us about his actual condition, or who offends us by his importunity or by his dirtiness, or color.

“Do you think of [New York City],” I ask, “as a Judeo-Christian city?”

“I wish I could say yes, but I don’t know. If it were, I doubt that we could lead the kinds of lives we do. I think that we’d be asking questions all the time. ‘Where does my money come from? Who pays a price for all the fun I have? Who is left out? Do I need this bottle of expensive perfume more than a child needs a doctor or a decent school? What does it mean, in theological terms, when grown-ups can eat caviar while Anthony eats oatmeal? What does this say about a city’s soul?'”

I hate that I have to be cautious…

I was just hanging up the phone after a conversation with my mom, rounding the corner into my living room. I looked to the front door and saw a black sweatshirt hood in the window of my front door. I usually have the curtain down, but had pulled it up to let some sunshine in today…of course, it was dark now, so I could not see who it was. I assumed it was one of the kids, although the person seemed too tall. Three siblings showed up a few months ago and tried to scare me by knocking on my door and covering their faces completely with their hoods. Needless to say, their giggles gave them away. Tonight, though, it was not one of them.

The man had jumpy eyes…my guess is that he was using. He was looking for a man who lived here who used to help him out with food sometimes when he was hungry. I let him know that the guy (if it was even the same one!) moved out a year and a half ago. He asked if I had some money I could give him to get something to eat. I let him know that I didn’t have any cash and that I was sorry. He left.

I don’t have a lot of food in my house right now, but I did have a pack of peanuts and some crackers I could’ve given him. I just didn’t feel comfortable opening the door. We were speaking through the door, so we both had to be close to hear one another, but he was pushed extremely close. Having the suspicion that he was using made me even less willing to open it. It’s not that I think he would have tried to harm me, but it would have been VERY easy for him too.

All that to say, I hate that I could have helped, and didn’t. I hate that I have to be cautious. I hate that I have to worry about protecting myself. I wish that it was as easy as opening the door, inviting him in and sharing a meal. But as a single woman, that’s just not an option.
I trust that God will provide food for him. I know that his provision does not rely on me. I just hate that the world is broken to the point that I feel like I have to fear people.

Why do you go to Hooters?

Our neighborhood dance team had a recital a few weeks ago and I was in charge of the boys who came to volunteer. I had about 6 or 7 middle school boys. We had a blast. The boys are a lot of fun to work with — they may be knuckleheads sometimes, but in general, they’re pretty drama free.

Anyhow, after the recital, I loaded the boys up in the church van to take them home. On the way to drop one of the boys off, we passed a Hooters. What followed cracked me up!

MS Boy #1: HOOTERS!!!!!!
MS Boy #2: Oh, Miss Dayna! We want to go to Hooters!! (all the boys joined in at this point)
Me: You have got to be kidding me! There’s no WAY I’m going to take you to Hooters. Y’all must be crazy!
Me: Really?! Now I KNOW you don’t want to go for the wings!
MS Boy #3 (the youngest one in the van): No, we want to go for the chicken BREAST!
Me: Wow…that was a good one, but I’m still not takin’ ya!

It’s terrible, I know, but oh so witty! They had me rolling!

Can I run my fingers through your hair?

Some days I really wish I was married. Like today, for instance. Not really because I want a husband (I’m pretty content right now…), but because I wouldn’t run into situations like this so much…

I stopped to pick up the mail at the Benbow’s house, and when I got out of the car, I saw my friend R sitting on the stoop across the street. I had just seen him last night, and we said a quick hey, how are ya, etc., then went on our ways. Here’s what happened tonight…

R (on the other side of the street, yelling): Hey! Do you know who I am?

Me: Uh, what?

R: Do you know who I am?

Me: Well, unless I lost my memory between yesterday and today, yeah.

R: (takes off his glasses) You remember me?

Me: R, what are you talking about?? Of course I know who you are. Are you smokin’ somethin’?

(R comes over to give me a hug. I try to give him a “side hug,” but that’s kind of hard when someone’s coming at you like a bear coming in for a kill…)

Me: Whoo! You’re not smokin’ anything but you sure have been drinking!! I can smell it on ya!

(R laughs a little bit)

R: Can I run my fingers through your hair?

Me: WHAT?!

R: What? Can I run my fingers through your hair?

Me: Uh, NO.

R: Well, can I just touch it?

Me: No. I think you need to go sit back down across the street.

R: What? Why?

Me: R, you need to go to bed. Come talk to me when you’re not drunk.

R: Okay, well, can I have another hug?

Me: No. You’ve met your hug quota for the day.

R: My quota?? Alright, well, I love you.

Me: Uh huh.

(I started to walk towards the house at this point)

R: Uh huh?? What do you mean uh huh?

Me: I don’t know, uh huh. Is that bad?

R: Yeah it’s bad. You’re supposed to say I love you too R.

Me: Alright, I love you too, R. Now go to bed.

R: Alright. I’ll see you later.

Holistic Ministry for Kids (A Case for the 40 Developmental Assets)

One of the sessions I attended at the Urban Youth Worker’s Institute in May was “Whole Ministry for the Whole Kid and the Whole Church,” led by Kara Powell, Executive Director of Fuller’s Center for Youth and Family Studies and Curt Gibson, Pastor of Neighborhood Student Mentoring at Lake Avenue Church. This was an excellent seminar, based predominantly on the 40 Developmental Assets, which were researched and compiled by the Search Institute, an independent nonprofit organization with a mission of providing research to help promote healthier children, families, and communities. I’d encourage you to take a look at the Assets – there are separate lists for adolescents (ages 12-18), early childhood (ages 3-5), and middle childhood (ages4-6). The following is an overview of the session – it’s helpful for both urban and non-urban kids.

Take a look at the assets real quick, so the rest of the post makes sense.

What problems do kids have today?

What possibilities do these same kids have?

Do you see your kids as half full or half empty?

Kids are not problems to be managed.
They are resources to be developed.

Assets are the developmental building blocks that enable kids to thrive!

External assets
= ecological assets
= resources embedded in surrounding environment or community

Internal assets
= individual assets
= personal resources
= qualities or attitudes of a person

Assets are about people not programs.

31 assets seem to be an important benchmark. The average kid has 19. The average urban kid has 17.

Faith communities increase assets. The assets can help us have holistic ministry that touches kids spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, intellectually, and socially.

The 3 asset factors in which urban kids score higher on average than non-urban kids are social conscience, personal values, and connection to family.

Research has consistently shown that females have more assets than males. Older kids consistently have fewer assets. The gap between urban and non-urban was greatest in middle school.

What assets does your ministry already build?

What would it mean for each adult to view themselves as an asset builder?

What else can our ministry do to build assets?

Question #1: What assets do my kids have?
Question #2: What assets do my kids lack?
Question #3: Of the assets they lack, which would make the most difference?
Question #4: Of the assets they lack, which would be the most do-able to provide?
Question #5: Given my answers to questions 1-4, what 3 assets could and should I focus on?
Question #6: What can I do to develop those 3 assets?