I saw a video on the Internet about privilege. Maybe you’ve seen it. If not you can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4K5fbQ1-zps In the video the leader has everyone line up on a line and says they’re going to race for $100. He then proceeds to say that if a statement he says is true of you, you get to take 2 steps forward. He says things like, if your parents are still married, you can advance 2 steps. If you never had to help with household expenses or never wondered about your next meal, take two more steps forward, etc. Eventually, some participants are far ahead and some are still left at the starting line. He explains that this is how it is in life. Some of us have better starts in life and some of us don’t. There is an important lesson in this, but unfortunately it was turned into a politically perverted version of what it could have been.
First, I think the point the man is making in the video, if you actually listen, is not about privilege in a negative way. He used words like “better opportunity.” He is saying that we all have to run the same race. We all have the same life to live no matter where we start out. He is acknowledging that while some of us do have a head start, it’s not necessarily from anything we’ve personally earned. The important question is why do they have a head start? Is it by chance, which is implied by the word “privilege” although it is never used in the video? Is it unfair? The warped conclusion made by the viewers of the video is that some people are just privileged and that life will always be easy for them and that they should be ashamed of their privilege. I don’t think the point of the video was to shame the ones who have better opportunity, but to challenge everyone to run hard and not waste what they have.
Secondly, how do we define privilege? I thought about that video for a long time. In my mind I placed myself on that line and placed my own children next to me. What if we were in that exercise together? Although I would never get to take a step forward, my children would be able to take all the steps forward. Why? Are they “privileged” in some kind of wrong way? Should they feel guilty for it? I guess that depends on your definition of privilege. Definition 1: a special right available only to a particular person or group of people. Definition 2: something regarded as a rare opportunity and bringing particular pleasure. Saying that they are privileged sounds like it happened by chance, but it’s not by chance. It’s by effort that they have an advantage… my effort. The definition of advantage is, “a condition or circumstance that puts one in a favorable or superior position.” The definition of opportunity is, “a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.” The advantage my children have is because of my hard work. Someone has to do the hard work. Sometimes we do it for our selves and sometimes people help carry that load. If we’re honest, everyone born in America is richer than most of the world. When I was young and poor, I had access to free lunches at school. That meant that I at least had one good meal a day during the school year.
Thirdly, I want to say that life is not a one-man race and we do not all start at the same starting point. Life is a relay; a relay of generations. Where one generation “finishes,” another begins. I am a person who did not have the advantages that so many others had, so I ran that race from the start line that I was given. But I ran hard and I sacrificed and I made it to the finish line and beyond, which means that when I passed the baton, I gave my kids the advantage to start further down the line. Every generation contributes to the next generation. In fact, I think a better visual would be to have everyone line up and have the kids who had to help with expenses, worry about their next meal, etc. take two steps back. I feel like that’s what it’s really like. The people who do not have to worry about food, expenses and adult things are starting in a right place, at the proper age and time. Some of us had to run backwards first to pick up the baton where our parents left it or start at an earlier age. By the way, I’m not judging the parents whose kids start further back, they have their own struggles and brokenness that led to the premature baton passing, but the truth is that’s what happened. For me, and many of the people on the line in the video, we got the baton passed to us at a very early age. For me, I ran hard and gave the next generation an advantage. Ultimately, no matter where you start, it’s your choice to be a victim, to continue the generational pace, or to run as hard and fast as you can. For my kids now, it’s their choice to keep running from where they started and give their kids an advantage as well, or to waste the work that we did for them. It’s by the “condition and circumstance of effort” that they have the advantage.
Fortunately, my life was transformed by the time my children were born. My husband and I worked hard to give our kids a childhood safe of abuse, free of adult worries and an advantage for the future. They aren’t privileged because it just happened. We did that for them, we worked on our own health, spiritually, physically and emotionally. We sacrificed and we learned something very important in the first year of our marriage. We learned that on our own, we would repeat the patterns of the past, so we did something different. We learned to rely on God. We took the advantage that Jesus gave us. We realized that if we learned about Jesus and worked hard to imitate him in our lives, we could change the future. In reality, we all have the advantage through Jesus. He is the one who already ran the race. The Bible says that the race is already won. If you want to learn more about the advantage Jesus gave us, I recommend that you read UpperDogs. In this book, Sarah and I discuss in depth the advantage Jesus bought for us and what it is to partner with him. I shared several stories of how God transformed my life. In Jesus, you have the advantage. Take 2 steps forward!