Talking About Privilege and Justice with Kids

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This post was originally published on Do Justice.

Two resources, Let’s Talk About Privilege and Homegrown Faith and Justice, offer studies to help young people grow in their journey of faith formation. Both resources provide strong Biblical teaching, in-depth questions, and activities for practical application. In our desperately hurt and broken world, recognizing privilege and responding with faith and justice marks us as followers of Christ. These resources help families and faith leaders guide children and young people on that path.

Let’s Talk About Privilege by Jane Genzink, a Calvin College professor, covers three topics for 1st-5th grade. The lessons begin with an interactive group activity with reflection questions that introduce each topic. Students then participate in a group discussion. They are given space to talk about what they are still wondering. Groups consider what the Bible has to say about privilege. They are left with a practical application for their own lives.

In the Bible, we see that God did not only use the privileged. He often used ordinary and even flawed people. These lessons challenge students to think about people that are often left out. Groups read stories about someone with a disability and a refugee while considering the Biblical response to those at the margins. Part of responding to those who do not have privilege means being a godly neighbor. Students explore how to reach out to those around them that need care.  

The lessons encourage students to consider and recognize privilege. Given that knowledge they can then learn how to respond Biblically to those without the same advantages. Responding with Christ’s love allows opportunity to be opened up to people on the margins, something that often marked work and ministry of Jesus.

Homegrown Faith and Justice, written with support from the United Church of Christ Minnesota Conference Ashley Endowment Fund, offers four lessons. Each lesson includes Biblical references, age-appropriate activities, conversation starters, and rituals for families and faith formation leaders.

The lessons cover the topics of God’s vision of shalom, God and love, love and neighbor, and courage to do the right thing. The first chapter, God’s Vision of Shalom, shares how the Hebrew meaning of shalom entails more than just peace, but restitution and justice for all of creation. A suggested daily ritual for this chapter includes taking time as a family to start the day by pausing, breathing, and praying.

In God and Love, participants are reminded that nothing can separate us from the love of God. When we have intentional conversation with children about faith and justice topics, we often grow in our own understanding too. Each chapter also includes an idea for parents to stretch their thinking. This chapter also includes great song and contemporary music ideas to spark talking points.

The scripture reading for the chapter Love and Neighbor asks us to examine our heart and mind as to who our neighbor is and how to love them. This section suggests reading material to expand thinking about the definition of neighbor in our own lives. Families are invited to move into spaces that stretch them and opens God’s love to all communities.

The last lesson, the Courage to do the Right Thing, encourages families to express their faith in courageous ways. Parents and faith leaders are given tools from film, historical role models of courage, and advocacy organizations to practice courageous faith. Prayers ask that parents and leaders see situations of injustice so that families can courageously and faithfully respond.

You can access Let's Talk about Privilege here

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The proper response to original sin is to embrace the teachings of Jesus, although one will remain always a sinner nevertheless. The proper response to White Privilege is to embrace the teachings of—well, you can fill in the name or substitute others—with the understanding that you will always harbor the Privilege nevertheless. Note that many embrace the idea of inculcating white kids with their responsibility to acknowledge Privilege from as early an age as possible, in sessions starting as early as elementary school. This, in the Naciremian sense, is Sunday school.

Think of it. A certain class of white person, roughly those who watched 30 Rock and Mad Men, lustily pumps their fists at the writings of a Coates who says that he is surprised that white people—i.e. ones like them—are interested enough in black people and racism to even bother reading his work. Coates is telling these people that they are sinners, in a sense, and they are eagerly drinking in the charge, “revering” him for it. This, ladies and gentlemen, is worship, pure and simple.

from http://www.thedailybeast.com/antiracism-our-flawed-new-religion 

The CRC's approach in this arena is nothing less than simply parroting and following the world's conversation.  It is sad to see the divisiveness promoted by denominational employees in the name of reconciliation.  Coates' writing is filled with thinly veiled hatred.  That the CRC's "race relations" director would affirmatively quote Coates from his latest divisive screed (which he has) is a sad commentary on denominational approach to this conversation.  The notion of "race relations" is an incoherent concept in itself, as races can't have relationships - only people have relationships.  Continuously separating the body of Christ into competing groups with lists of grievances is antithetical to the concept of reconciliation.  Removing a persons individuality and personal culpability (or lack thereof) in favor of identity and group politics is the way of the world, not the way of the unified body of Christ.  Would that we would eschew any and all worldly religions (including the religion of antiracism with all of its corrosive effects) in favor of the simplicity of the gospel.  I refuse to be pitted against people I have never met and told to reconcile with people with whom I am not in a state of enmity. 

I love your closing sentence, Eric. I have felt guilty for being born white at different times in life. One of the worst was when we were in CRC sensitivity training for a certain board a decade or so ago. We were in a circle of a couple of dozen folks and given grotesque, gruesome photos of black people being hung from trees or being brutally beaten and bloodied. I hated that. I don't condone that. I didn't do that. I could not identify with that. And if some of my forfathers were involved in that I would truly be sickened. But owning that as my sin and being made to feel guilty for that as a person who has committed such evils served no good purpose. I did not choose my race. I choose how I love and respond to others. Thanks again for your insightful response.

Guide

Hey Paul, I gave that article a read and perused some of the writer’s other articles as well. I can’t say I agree with everything he writes, especially his incredulity about structural racism, but I think I see what you’re getting at. It shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone who knows how idolatry works that idolatry takes a good thing and makes it a thing to be worshipped. So, if I’m understanding you correctly, are you saying that antiracism is a good thing that can be made into a competitor for our highest loyalties? I agree; lots of things can be competitors for our loyalties (technology, work, sex, money, environmentalism, nationalism, etc), and yet the answer isn’t often to throw those things out, but to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. So, assuming that you believe antiracism is good and is part of the Church’s call, following our Lord who broke down the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles, do you see a problem with educating kids about antiracism? (By antiracism I mean learning to truly value the inherent worth, dignity, and contributions of all people and to work to undo the ways that God-given worth isn’t valued in people of colour.)

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