Most people of color are on bicycles, so to speak, in a world designed for cars.

After grad school, I sent out hundreds of resumes seeking my first full-time employment. As a new immigrant whose wife was expecting our first child, I applied for almost any job for which I was qualified. After months of futility, and acting on a suggestion, I changed the name on my next batch of resumes from “Shiao Chong” to “David Chong.” Immediately I got three callbacks from otherwise identical resumes.

Research shows that Asian job applicants with “whitened names and resumes” receive a 21 percent callback rate compared to only 11.5 percent of those with Asian-sounding names (tinyurl.com/BannerResume). The disparity is greater for African names. This is an example of white privilege. Thankfully, Christian institutions stood up to racism and hired me as “Shiao Chong.”

In connection with Black History Month, this issue includes a feature on “Confronting White Privilege” (p. 32). One helpful but imperfect analogy for explaining white privilege uses cycling (tinyurl.com/BannerBikeArticle). Our highways and roads privilege cars over bicycles. They were designed and built with the automobile in mind. Bicycles may share the road, but cyclists know how dangerous it can be when cars get too close, drive by at high speeds, or kick up gravel. Yes, some of those situations are the fault of obnoxious drivers. But most car/bike issues probably result from well-meaning drivers not being aware enough.

Similarly, white privilege is a social system that makes people of color more vulnerable, even when white people have no evil intentions. The term is not a label that calls every white person a privileged racist. Rather it describes a flawed system where most people of color are on bicycles, so to speak, in a world designed for cars. Unfortunately, unlike cyclists, people of color can never get off the bike.

Not everyone agrees that white privilege exists. It depends on how you perceive racism. Those who see racism as simply the result of individuals choosing to act in racist ways are likely to be skeptical of white privilege. Racism, for such people, is an intentional choice. If an action is unintentional, they say, then it is not racist. Those who think that social institutions also perpetuate racism, regardless of intentions, are likely to accept white privilege as true.

I believe these different viewpoints have contributed to divisions among Christians on various issues of race, from the Black Lives Matter movement to the Doctrine of Discovery. It is probably why some Christians don’t see how colonialism is relevant while others see its effects on our society every day. Why some say there are systemic racial issues in police enforcement while others say that assertion is an insult to those who serve and protect. Why some Christians seem to minimize what other Christians consider racist overtones in the U.S. president-elect’s (at the time of this writing) public statements.

If there are fundamental differences in the way we view racism, then we are constantly talking past each other. To move beyond this impasse, we need to listen to the stories and experiences of people of color. Develop cross-cultural friendships. Walk in other people’s shoes. Our Office of Race Relations has plenty of resources to help us (crcna.org/race/resources-race-relations).

Racism spans cultures and ethnicities. I’ll bet there is “yellow privilege” in China. Recognizing racism is not about blaming any one group. Rather, it’s about together repenting and standing against sin. I believe that systemic sins, like racism, are part of “the powers of this dark world” (Eph. 6:12). Let us, therefore, stand together against racism.

 

Related Article

Confronting White Privilege 

About the Author

 Shiao Chong is editor-in-chief of The Banner. He attends Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Toronto, Ont.

See comments (4)

Comments

Thank you, Chong! I'm grateful to have you at The Banner!

Thanks Chong for saying what is difficult to say. Very timely

You aren't the only non-White person who has to anglicize his/her name. Guess what, the Dutch, who are White, did it long before you and they didn't complain about being oppressed by the English. The Roosevelt Family from which President F.D.R. arose, are Dutch and they had a Dutch name- van Rosenvelt. Many European immigrants had their names changed upon disembarking because their names would have been hard to pronounce let alone spell. And guess what, they weren't offended. What do you think about Westerners who convert to Islam and adopt Muslim names? Are they victims of Islamic discrimination or our they expressing inclusion?

Racism is endemic to ethnic groups and ideological movements. Black Lives Matter is definitely a Black Leftist racist group that is no different than the Neo-Nazis or the KKK. When Black rioters seek out White to accost or White policeman to shoot then that is racism.

Pseudo religious groups like Islam are also racist and have a religious bias. The New Years Eve rapes that commited in Europe by Muslim male gangs against White women in 2016 were motivated by racism and religion. Rape in Islam is a form of terrorism and a statement of conquest of by the Muslim population. Black and Muslim pimps who specifically target White women for their prostitution operations are being racist.

Your analogy of comparing Blacks to cyclist and Whites to cars is totally wrong. The social order in the West is not built to benefit Whites at the expense of Blacks. Blacks and other races have equal access to the benefits of Western society. It is Whites who outnumber Blacks when it comes to receiving welfare benefits. Whites suffered when factories closed and moved over seas.

The fact is that all cultures are not equal. There is a difference between believing that individuals are equal and believing that cultural practices are equal. All cultures are not equal and it is a lie of multiculturalism to believe  that they are. My skin color is not my culture. It is wrong to equate they two.

If such were the case then how could we judge between right and wrong? Some things such as female genital mutilation, honor killings, anti-Semitism are wrong no matter what your culture or relgion is. This is called Human Rights. Cultures that can't provide for the betterment of their people should be allowed to die and not preserved through some kind of subsidy from the successful culture. If your culture couldn't invent the wheel or literacy even though it has been around for at least as long as another culture that did then your culture has failed. If your culture brutalizes its members than your culture has no right to exist.

The Western culture has been the most successful culture on this planet and the reason for that is the presence of the church. While it is true that the church has made mistakes the other truth is that the church has corrected those mistakes and apologized for them. The church has been responsible for the opening up of the human mind. If it wasn't for the church Europe would have been no different from any number of the world's other failed societies.

Some cultures are better than others. I for one amd glad to be Western. I don't see other people flocking to live in the failed societies that have been spawned by the other cultures of the world.

So if, as this article says, "... there is 'yellow privilege' in China," it would seem that "white privilege" by definition results from the mere fact that "whites" (however that may be defined), merely outnumber "non-whites" in a particular geographically defined area.  In which case, the only way to rid a particular geographical area of "white privilige" (which is by this article equates with racism), is to rid the geographical area of so many whites (how would we do that?).  This article also claims (just read it) that "white privilege" is equal to "racism" ("Not everyone agrees that white privilege exists. It depends on how you perceive racism"), so being a person that is of a majority race in a particular geographical area is not inconsequential.  It means you are racist, sort of like you are sinful at birth because of 'original sin' (but you are not racist if born a minority race, if the logic of this article is followed). 

So exactly how do we "stand against racism [white privilege]"?  Do we encourage or implement a national policy of reducing the number of whites (however that is defined)?  Do localized areas in the US where non-whites are the dominant population suffer from non-white privilege?  Should we stand against "brown privilege" or "black privilege" or "yellow privilege" in those areas?  Should we stand against "yellow privilege" in China and "black privilege" in Nigeria?  By definition, the majority races in those countries are racist too, not?  Should we support policies that would depopulate "yellows" from China and "blacks" from Nigeria?  Or "browns" from Latin American countries?  Must we maybe do a world-wide bussing program (ala Brown vs. Board of Education) to effectively "stand against racism"? 

And do Italians and Jews get into the definition of "white"? If not, what are they?  What pigeon hole does Tiger Woods get into?  Can he pick?  Can Italians and Jews pick?  Bulgarians?  Do we all need to get one of those DNA tests to see who we truly and meaningfuly are?  And if we get that test and we are shown to be a race blend (which is likely), then what?  Do we get to pick our race?  Can that pick be changed over time (race "fluidity") or are we bound by our original pick?  At what age are we competent to pick our race?  Should DNA tests be mandatory?  And should we be required to pick once we have our DNA test results?  Even if we agree with all this defining-everyone-by-their-race thing?

I'm just following the logic of the article, here.  Indeed, I see that logic as leading to absurd results, or perhaps more accurately, desctructive and unjust results -- in so many ways.

Here's my take, simplistic as some may accuse me of being.  I think the better approach is to repeatedly emphasize that all people are people created in the image of God, not black people, not jewish people, not italian people, not dutch people, not chinese people, etc, and not even smart people, not-so-smart people, thin people, not-so-thiin people, physically attractive people, and not-so-attractive people.  

The more we emphasize our differences based upon relatively meaningless criteria (race being among the most meaningless, much more meaningless than, say, ethnicity or culture), the more we find ourselves doing meaningless things (like "standing against racism or white privilege") that amount to little more than pointing at those in certain statistical categories (categorized by meaningless criteria) and saying, "hey, you should feel guilty because of your statistical category and if you don't, just maybe you haven't committed to the Christian faith as much as you think you have).

As an aside, but related: just maybe the author didn't get as many responses when using a Chinese name in his resume because prospective employers took note of at that Chinese name while screening out some applicants based on applications (and without calling back), decided there was a high statistical chance that this applicant with the Chinese name might not have as much command of the English language as would other applicants.  Would that be racist (as opposed to "language-ist")?  I think it is the more likely explanation.