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Privilege, Responsibility, and Replacing Racism

A little girl who once asked her daddy why she had to do a list of chores while he sat watching TV or left home to go jogging.

He could've responded by saying, "Baby girl, I'm a responsible father and I love you very much. When I'm watching TV, I'm resting from a long day at work. When I'm out for a jog, I'm settling my stress.

I need to do these things because I want to be a caring father and a responsible parent. I know it looks unfair. Can I help you see it with mature eyes? Will you trust me?"

But the father didn't say that.

"It's one of the privileges of being an adult," he said proudly as he leaned back in his recliner. He said it every time he closed the door between them as he left her to go out for a jog.

The dad had a right to watch TV. He wasn't evil because he liked to exercise.

But, neglecting to address his little girl's fears reduced their conversation to the power of rights instead of the privilege of responsibility.

Rights, without responsibility, build a culture of fear, not love.

The little girl was afraid. In her immaturity, she was asking if her daddy cared that she was working when he wasn't. She needed to be noticed and not ignored.

She needed love to protect her from fear. Nothing less.

Her question wasn't from a rebellious place. Deep inside, she was curious to know the order of things.

Who is responsible for taking care of who?

As a culture, we're confused about responsibility. We avoid it as often as we leave a mess for someone else to clean up. Litter, dishes in the sink, laundry on the couch. With great regularity, we walk away from the stuff that invites our contribution.

We delay responsibility when we can't avoid it. Extensions on our taxes, late-night cramming for a test, talking about the hard stuff later instead of now; we put off giving of ourselves in uncomfortable ways as long as we can.

We're confused about responsibility because we're confused about maturity. In the battle against racism, responsibility is often missing from conversations about privilege.

Privilege without responsibility is immaturity. Sometimes we speak of immature people as entitled. Entitlement is the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.

Racism is fueled by pervasive entitlement.

Revisiting the design for maturity in a responsible community can be a roadmap for replacing racism.

The journey of maturity.

A newborn baby isn't immature. Infancy is innocence. Tiny babies enjoy all the privileges of love with only one responsibility: trust the love that meets your needs.

When babies grow into toddlers and toddlers into young children, maturity is having its way. The weak are becoming the strong. And the strong are learning to be more responsible.

All the things little babies need help with, children can do for themselves. Getting dressed, potty training, putting away toys, resolving their emotions; we breathe a sigh of relief when young children reach each milestone.

Childhood is the season in life when we learn to take care of ourselves in the ways of love, not apathy or addiction.

When we offer children an honest childhood, we offer the world trustworthy adults. (Education by Design, Not Default by Janet Newberry)

An adult, by definition, is someone who can take care of themselves and one other person simultaneously. It is a season that combines the responsibility of independence with the privilege of mature relationships.

In a healthy adult relationship, we notice each other's needs. We encourage and contribute. We respond. We protect each other because we care.

We wash the dishes. We fold the clothes and feel satisfied, not put out. No one's keeping score. Instead, mature eyes are aware of needs. We're humbled and grateful.

We're deeply satisfied living life as our best selves and enjoying each other's love.

When maturity is missing.

Beyond childhood, immaturity is exhausting.

Immaturity consumes resources. Think again about taking care of an infant. Immaturity requires time, energy, and patience.

Maturity is what happens when we transition from being a consumer to a contributor.

But when maturity is missing, consuming turns into demanding. When responsibility is misplaced, entitlement grows into abuse.

Immaturity in a culture of freedom is a real reason for concern. It is a breach in the fabric of our lives.

Like now.

A way home.

Perhaps all of the recent chaos is a reckoning rather than a wrecking. Maybe the world is turning right side up because we're beginning to see that, all this time, it's been upside down.

Perhaps we're finding our response-ability now.

We've been confused about privilege and protection. We're illiterate in the ways of love and we've lost the roadmap to a mature, not simply wealthy and self-absorbed, society.

If we are living in a reckoning, our lives will never be the same. We will begin, slowly but surely, to find our ability to respond to real needs around us with passion and purpose.

We must be willing to be weaned from selfishness because selfishness makes us sick.

If we continue to misplace our response-ability, the abuse will continue. The "land of the free and the home of the brave" may become a story our grandchildren read about instead of experience.

We cannot declare "I'm not adulting today" and heal our land at the same time.
  • An adult is someone who knows how to care for themselves and one other person, simultaneously.

  • A parent is someone who knows how to care for themselves and sacrificially care for their family.

  • An elder is someone who knows how to care for themselves and sacrificially care for their community.

Healing the wound of racism begins with wearing a new t-shirt. "I am adulting today because I can and I care."

If our nation is going to continue to heal injustice, we will need to redeem childhood.

"Childhood is a season of growing up, not simply measuring up" (Education by Design, Not Default by Janet Newberry) A child's greatest need is love, not success.

Measuring up may put us in positions of power, but growing up will prepare us to love one another.

The purpose of childhood is maturity, not privilege.

Childhood prepares us for becoming young adults. Love protects us from lingering too long in the ditch of adolescence.

Replacing racism with responsibility.

We adore Mr. Rogers but we can't simply remember him as a good guy. Mr. Rogers looked eye to eye with our souls and helped settle our emotions. He invited us to be real. He reminded us to look for the helpers.

Helpers notice needs. Helpers are contributors, not simply consumers. Helpers are response-able in the ways of love.

We can't cheer for Just Mercy and simply remember it as a great movie. Bryan Stevenson invites us to become our best selves. He rejected entitlement and found purpose.

His training was legalism but his life is lived in grace. As a lawyer, he dares us to become a lover. And, he shows us how.

Like Jesus.

Bryan Stevenson didn't win Mr. McMillian's case simply because he knew the law better than anyone else. He gave real men a new chance to live because he risked loving them well. Even, and especially the marginalized.

Mr. McMillian didn't pay a penny for his legal defense. His responsibility was trusting the grace offered to meet his real need.

We can't pay for love.

We can't fix racism with more laws. Legalism doesn't change hearts.

We can't fix racism with religion. Religion is legalism.

We can't fix racism by trying harder. Racism is sin. Sin can't be fixed. No one matures in brokenness.

The penalty for sin has to be paid for.

Our responsibility is the same as Mr. McMillian's. Risk relationship. Trust the grace that meets our real need. Trust Jesus.

Waking up in new life, we discover we are the helpers, not the haters. We're the first responders, not the ones who ignore the hurting. We are the care-full, not the care-less.

Love is the process of meeting needs. We are the lovers.

Trusting new life is messy. It's still painful. Often in the pain, we find our purpose. Just like Bryan Stevenson when his grandfather died and nobody seemed to care.

Privilege without responsibility is toxic. It breeds in a culture of fear. Without responsibility, privilege is without purpose.

Toxic privilege is bondage. It's entitlement. It's never enough, by design. Love offers to wean us from selfishness and help us find our way home.

Love knows us deeply. Love protects from fear. Love notices. Love listens.

Together, there is great hope.


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