Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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Published on Tuesday, July 21, 2020

White privilege is not about guilt

A new term has crept into the lexicon of race relations – “white privilege.”

            Don’t confuse white privilege with white supremacy. White supremacy means that you actively assert the superiority of people with white skins over anyone who has skin of a different colour --  using politics, religion, legislation, or violence.

            White privilege, on the other hand, refers to aspects of life that we -- I speak for myself, but I assume others are like me -- have never previously considered, but have simply taken for granted. Examples:

·      No one has ever called me a racial epithet. 

·      Nobody ever suggested that I shouldn’t go to university. Although, interestingly enough, that suggestion was made to my wife -- the first person in her extended family ever to seek higher education. 

·      I have never been pulled over by police on suspicion. If I’ve been pulled over, it was for some clear violation, such as speeding. Or failing to yield the right of way to a pedestrian.

·      I’ve never been roughly treated by cops. As soon as I open my mouth, it’s obvious I belong to the educated classes.

·      I have never been turned down for a hotel room, or barred from a restaurant. 

·      I have never felt that the books I read ignore or belittle my experience. 

            But at least one of those has happened to anyone who is Black, Asian, or Indigenous.

            That’s white privilege. We don’t have to think about these things. We don’t have to train ourselves NOT to react with hostility.


Seeing colour

            My 16-year-old granddaughter is black. She got into an animated Facebook discussion with a friend’s mother, who genuinely believes that she has no race prejudice. She told my granddaughter, “I just don’t see colour.”

            My granddaughter replied, “Although the intent behind saying ‘I don’t see colour’ might be positive, saying ‘I don’t see color’ in a world that uses skin color to determine your humanity is basically saying that you choose to ignore the injustices carried out on people of colour. In order to see me and who I am and will always be, in order to truly acknowledge what is going on with the black community around the world, you HAVE to see my colour!”

            I won’t name my granddaughter. I want to protect her from the hate mail that she’d surely get.  

            According to SomeOfUs (an online lobbying body) researchers have identified “more than 6000 social media accounts and pages in Canada pumping violent and racist propaganda to millions worldwide.”

            I don’t want my granddaughter singled out for abuse. 


Because of what you’re NOT

            But you may say, “Nobody’s ever threatened me like that.” Precisely. That’s white privilege. You’re assumed to be safe, acceptable, because you’re NOT Black, Asian, Indigenous, female, gay, whatever… 

            A recent article in Yes! magazine quoted a white male’s Facebook post: “I profess a blissful ignorance of this ‘White Privilege’ I’m apparently guilty of possessing. Not being from a background/race/religion/gender/nationality/body type that differs from my own makes me part of the problem, according to what I’m hearing. Despite treating everyone with respect and humour my entire life (as far as I know), I’m somehow complicit in the misfortune of others.”

            To which the article’s author, Lori Lakin Hutcherson, responded, “Many of my friends -- especially the white ones -- have no idea what I’ve experienced/dealt with unless they were present (and aware) when it happened.”

            After enumerating a dozen instances of unintentional prejudice, Hutcherson ended, “I hope my experiences shed some light for you on how institutional and personal racism have affected the entire life of a friend of yours… I hope what I’ve shared makes you realize it’s not just strangers, but people you know and care for, who have suffered and are suffering, because we are excluded from the privilege you have -- not to be judged, questioned, or assaulted because of your race.

            “As for you ‘being part of the problem,’ trust me, nobody is mad at you for being white. Just like nobody should be mad at me for being black. Or female. Or whatever. But what IS being asked of you is to acknowledge that white privilege DOES exist and not only to treat people of races that differ from yours ‘with respect and humour,’ but also to stand up for fair treatment and justice.”

            There’s nothing I can do to change, alter, or remove my “white privilege.” But I can make sure that it doesn’t blind me to the LACK of privilege that others may experience. 


Copyright © 2020 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.

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Last week I wrote about the “bubbles” we live in during these Covid times. It was a metaphor, of course, although widely used. And there are some people who will never get a metaphor….


Ian Otterbein described his own bubble: “I work ten hours a week at one of the local large grocery stores.  I am normally working in the aisles stocking shelves.

            I figured that, on average, I am from four–six feet from 5 people every minute I am on the floor.  So that is 3000 people a week (for someone working 40 hours/week that would be 12,000).  If each of them has been in contact with 10 people I have indirectly been in contact with 30,000 people.

            “The ventilation system moves a lot of air so in places four feet is probably enough but in others six is not.  And there is no way to know where the air currents are coming from/going to.”


Laurna Tallman: “May I add that it is more difficult when family members for various reasons of neurological impairment fail to recognize or appreciate the COVID-19 threat, take risks, and make the family bubble uncertain. We are fortunate to live in a county that seems to be its own bubble, which may be part of the reason too few sad lessons close to home have left the doubters complacent. But summer travelers could reverse that situation very suddenly. Everyone should remain vigilant. 

            “And, now that you mention that old joke, I apparently have made love to a number of adult (?) Martians.”


Ralph Milton recalled the many jokes made about “turn off the bubble machine!” on the Lawrence Welk TV show.


David Milne-Ives sent me a number of cartoons about Covid bubbles, by the fiendishly clever Randall Monroe. 


Isabel Gibson offered common sense: “We came home from the USA in mid-March, when the provider of our travel medical insurance pulled the plug on our coverage.

            “After two weeks of quarantine, I ventured out, mask on face, to buy groceries. It was all good, or nearly so, until I got home. As I came in the door, I realized that although I should feel safe now that I was home, I didn't. I had no idea whether I had picked up the virus. At least in a zombie apocalypse, when you lock the door behind you, you know you're locking the danger on the other side of it.

            “Now, after several months of this, I take what I think are reasonable precautions, but I don't dwell on the risk of infection. If I stay out of large groups, even if I contract the virus I won't transmit it to many others. That seems to me to be the best we can do.

            “Because, after all, we must live. And that means seeing other people.”


Tom Watson concurred: “It all boils down to how much we, as individuals, are willing to risk...or what bubbles we're willing to test and see if they break.”


Bob Rollwagen: “Have you seen those clusters of bubbles that are created when you are trying to make one big one? That us what I think a lot of people think is the definition of a bubble. Pretty loose. I see friends moving between bubbles like they think they only break into Covid-free bubbles. What I see is everyone doing what they think is good enough for themselves when it is comfortable.”


Ray Shaver questioned my use assertion that "coronaviruses die if they can’t find a new carrier within a couple of weeks."  

            Ray wrote, “This particular coronavirus isn't a living organism, rather it is a packet of genetic material that cannot even replicate until it attaches to a living host's cells that assist in its replication.  So we cannot say the coronavirus will die if it cannot find a new carrier, because it isn't ‘living’ to start with.  In all of my technical reading on the subject, this virus outside a living host doesn't last for two weeks.  Inside a living host the virus will probably live as long as the host's immune system will allow it to live, or until the host dies.”


I had wondered how we would fare IF a second wave of the coronavirus hits us this fall. Rob Brown though I should have said WHEN, not IF: “In the world-wide pandemic of a century ago, the first wave was in the spring of 1918; the second wave came in the autumn of 1918, and was far worse than the first. Eventually, there were four waves by 1920.

            “I know the pandemic of this year could be much less destructive than the 1918-20 version. Science and medicine have advanced by leaps and bounds. What apparently has not changed is human nature. We have been warned time and time again about staying safe during the pandemic. But significant portions of the population must they are impervious to the disease because they pay no heed to the warnings. Strangely, in places where people emphasize their right to disobey, Covid-19 cases spike.”






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To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. (This is to circumvent filters that think some of these links are spam.)

                       Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” is an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca. He set up my webpage, and he doesn’t charge enough.

                       I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also runs beautiful pictures. Her Thanksgiving presentation on the old hymn, For the Beauty of the Earth, Is, well, beautiful -- https://www.traditionaliconoclast.com/2019/10/13/for/

                       Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)



                       The late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures now have an archive (don’t ask how this happened) on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. Feel free to browse all 550 columns.



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