Category Archives: neighborhood

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?'”

Resting in hope and dependence

I sat on my porch tonight trying to write a concise post about the all the feelings I’ve had about the neighborhood over the last few weeks. As I started and quickly abandoned a handful of posts, all I could do was cry.

Cry for five years of work, play, joy and sorrow all sown into this neighborhood.
Cry for kids growing up.
Cry for the kids who are changing when I had all but given up hope.
Cry for the kids I had all the hope in the world for who are digging in their heels.
Cry for a million other things that I don’t know how to express.
Crying tears of joy and sadness all at the same time.

This summer has been immensely refreshing for me. Being in Glenwood for 5 years now, I have experienced significant seasons of spiritual drought. But this summer, particularly during and after camp, I have come to know a joy and lightheartedness I never thought I’d get back. As hard as things are in Glenwood, the last month in this neighborhood has pure joy, and that’s something I haven’t been able to say for the last few years.

What has made the difference? I’m not 100% sure. Things haven’t significantly changed in Glenwood. All of the same problems are still here. BUT, I feel like I’m looking through a new lens. God has brought significant emotional healing to me recently, which has given me a greater hope for our friends in the neighborhood. He’s also been teaching me to release control to him (in a number of way), because the truth is, he knows what he’s doing and he’ll always speak when necessary. It’s funny how placing our hope and dependence in Christ can shift our outlook so significantly.

By shifting my hope and dependence back to Christ, I am experiencing the rest my spirit so desperately needs…and out of that rest comes joy unspeakable.

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!
MS Boy #1: CHICKEN WINGS!!!
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!

Violence, Part 2

I’ve had some time to think since my last post on the domestic violence that I witnessed, and I feel like it warrants a follow-up. Stick with me here…it’s not as long as it looks…

Many people responded to my post on Facebook, this blog, and in person. Most of them said that I made the right decision, that you have to be careful not to put yourself in harm’s way, and that I could have gotten hurt if I had intervened. And in general, they were right.

BUT…

Based on my life experiences, I don’t think that I’ll make the same choice again.

I grew up in a home plagued by domestic violence. I experienced some directly, but watched my mom take the brunt of it. It was hell on earth. It still is hell on earth, sometimes, even though it’s not happening any more. The effects of domestic violence reach far beyond the time they occur.

It has been interesting for me to stop and think about the emotions that I felt. First, there was a suffocating fear. Like my heart was being squeezed to the point of pain, and all the air gone from my lungs. I felt the blood drain from my face, and felt the feeling powerlessness that was all too familiar as a child. The feeling of not being able to stop the horror unfolding in front of me. Then came the adrenaline: the urgency to call the police, the attention to every detail, the need to get someone to help. Finally, the fury. I was not only mad for her, but mad for myself, for my mom, for other women I know who have been abused, and for all the women I don’t know. There is a righteous fury that survivors of domestic violence hold inside of them…one that isn’t generally seen until provoked. It was that righteous fury that made me wish I had intervened.

And honestly, so what if I end up with a black eye, a broken arm? Wounds heal. I know that stepping in would neither cause the abuser to immediately drop to his knees and repent, nor empower the woman to stand up and walk away. More likely, she would simply go back home and refuse to press charges, and the cycle would continue. BUT, if for just one minute, she stopped and thought that someone loved her…stopped to wonder why a stranger would stop to get involved, that could be seed enough for a change down the road. A seed that I hope would eventually point to Christ, and the unimaginable love that he gives.

Yes, there are risks involved. But having LIVED in domestic violence, the risks are totally worth it. Some women never feel empowered enough to leave. Some men are never questioned. I don’t think I can save the world. I don’t feel like I need to intervene. For me, it’s just the right thing to do. I’ve spoken with other survivors who feel the same.

Christ’s love compels Christians to share with others, on account of the forgiveness, grace and mercy He gives. It’s an undeniable, uncontainable joy, and they are compelled to share that with others.

Similarly, living through domestic violence compels the survivor to make a difference in the lives of women living through it now. They know the taste of freedom, and cannot stand to see another woman still in bondage.

Violence

I’ve lived in Glenwood for four and a half years now. I know domestic violence happens here. I’ve heard about it. I’ve heard it. I’ve seen the effects of it.

Tonight, I saw it.

As I rounded the corner of Union Street and Silver Avenue, a man punched a woman in the head, knocking her to the ground. He then continued to threaten her. Less than a minute later, they were both getting back in their car, pulling away.

I wanted to get out and help her. But, fear of getting hurt myself kept me in my car. I pulled over and called the police, keeping an eye on them the whole time. Of course, the couple left long before the police even started their cars.

As I pulled away, fury set in. I wish I had gotten out of the car. Screamed. Yelled. Fought. Done something to help her. I don’t care if I would have been hurt.

In the end, I know the “smart” decision was to stay in the car. But at this moment, I regret it.

I hope she’s alright when they get home.

They’re serving more than nuggets & fries at Wendy’s…

Not really. Well, at least the employees aren’t.

I saw a drug deal at Wendy’s tonight. It was equally clever and stupid, all at the same time. I pulled in behind a car in the drive through line. There wasn’t anyone ahead of us, so the white car before me pulled right up to the speaker to place an order. A man got out of the passenger seat and walked to a car pulled into a space at the very back of the parking lot. This was, of course, only about two car lengths from the drive through lane. He got in the passenger seat of the parked car (which had a man inside) and made his transaction. Meanwhile, the lady driving the car in front of me took FOREVER to place her order. It was obvious she was stalling. First she ordered a burger with so many changes that it filled the entire order screen. Then, she orderd a kids meal, made all the choices that came with it, then cancelled that and ordered an adult meal, and, well, you get the point. After about a minute or so, the guy walked back across the parking lot, got in the car, and they pulled forward.

I say it was clever because a fast food joint is expected to have a high volume of in and out traffic. Doing it while in the drive-thru lane was even better…I mean, who looks behind the restaurant? Nobody except for other drive-thru patrons, which is where the stupidity comes in. I sat behind them and watched all of this. Wrote down their tag number, make and model of their car, descriptions, time, etc. Anyone with a set of eyes and half a brain could tell what was going on. Granted, I don’t know that I’ll do anything. I didn’t actually SEE drugs…just the exchange of something.

This is where I always get stuck — do you call the police when you have no proof that something illegal happened? Do you wait for a second occurrence just to make sure that you’re right? I don’t want to seem presumptuous, but at the same time, I don’t want it to keep happening.

I did act quickly one time, but to no avail. There was a very distinctive smell in my backyard, to the point it was overpowering. I had to come inside to catch my breath. It was meth. No doubt in my mind. I called the police and the fire department was here in the shortest amount of time I’ve ever seen. But of course, no smell when they got here. Are they keeping an eye out in the area now? I’d like to think so, but who knows. All I got was a group of firemen sniffing, literally, around my backyard. Upon leaving, the head guy told me to “keep a sniffer out.” Righty-oh, will do.

Anyhow, I don’t think it was a total waste to have them come out, but when something is so fleeting, here for a moment and gone the next, it’s hard to get people involved. Even if I had called GPD about Wendy’s, the people were gone.

Clearly, this is an ongoing question. I don’t know why I’m so reluctant to call the police about some things…