Confession: I Am the Recipient of Systemic White Privilege

Confession: I Am the Recipient of Systemic White Privilege September 26, 2020

I have a confession to make. I am the recipient of systemic white privilege. But I’m an unwitting accomplice. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t seek it. It’s because my country was founded upon its principles, much like many other countries around the world.

The American Indians; the first minority people of color to be the victims of systemic racism in America. / Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Once upon a time, back in the mid-nineties, I applied for a position as an English teacher in South Korea. The application process required a resume with my photograph paper-clipped to its upper left-hand corner, and it also included my bio and medical history. This may not seem like much, but it was enough to match the stereotype my potential employer was looking for.

Young / white Caucasian / male / four years of college / solid work history / religion degree / healthy

When I arrived in Iksan, South Korea, my employer treated me to a steaming bowl of talsotpibimpap. It’s served in a stone bowl fresh off the fire, and I seared my fingers when I reached out to grab it. The next day I took a tour of his private school called a hagwan, where I’d be teaching K-12 English. I understood within a few days why I was hired. Predominately because I was white and had a religion degree. My employer was a highly religious individual, and my commitment to Christianity – at least on paper – satisfied his suspicion that I was moral enough to work for him. Within a year I’d pretty much met the rest of the twenty or so English teachers in the city, all of which were white, and came from other countries like Canada and New Zealand.

I mean no disrespect of course. My boss and his family were wonderful people whom I liked working for. I enjoyed being immersed in Korean culture so much that I went back for a second year and taught (ESL), English as a Second Language, at Wonkwang University.

A quick history of white privilege in America

A creamy, sinuous white thread of systemic racism binds history. / Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

When we look back through the past 1000 years, we can see that a creamy, white, sinuous thread runs through it. It’s a global history dominated by the influences of western culture. And it spread when many fair-skinned Catholics and Christians started “discovering” other countries around the globe, which ironically, were already there. Fortunately, we are now able to see through the white veil by history has been cast. Because it’s far more accurate to say that these early white explorers invaded these countries, stole the land out from under the indigenous peoples, cleansed them through Christianity, and then inculcated them to western values.

From the spread of Christianity, to establishing educational criteria, to the creation of political ideologies, to commerce and capitalism, to incorporating western concepts about art, music, medicine and culture; the way of life we enjoy today is rooted in predominately white western values for the advancement of white culture.

If I were to neatly summarize the history of the United States, I’d say that when a small group of white people set sail on the Mayflower in 1620, they brought more than provisions to survive; they brought a boatload of white-privileged ideologies along with them. After landing in New England, their descendants swept across America all the way to California and sprinkled their way of life along the routes. And when the immigrants, migrants, slaves, and other people of color began arriving in the ensuing years, they had to strip away their cultural identities in order to survive.

So, I’ll just cut to the chase: For hundreds of years the white man’s ways have been systematically implemented across the globe, and this is the reason we have widespread systemic racism for people of color.

Black Lives Matter. / Image by UnratedStudio from Pixabay

As a white person, I can’t apologize for being born in a world that is heavily weighted to favor whites. But I can get better at appreciating the advantages I’ve enjoyed and making sure that people of color are also guaranteed these advantages. I can also become more engaged with groups and organizations (like Black Lives Matter), which are still fighting for the rights of people of color. I can do this by either protesting alongside them or supporting their efforts in other ways.

Musician Michael Kiwanuka’s I’m a Black Man in a White World.


About Scott R Stahlecker
Scott Stahlecker is the author of the novel "Blind Guides, “Picking Wings Off Butterflies,” and “How to Escape Religion Guilt Free.” He is also a former pastor and previous owner of several hospice agencies. There are a lot of websites that offer a place for believers and nonbelievers to debate. Thinkadelics is different. It’s about discussing the benefits of being a freethinker, and providing other insightful tips, newsworthy posts, and in-depth features. You can read more about the author here.

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8 responses to “Confession: I Am the Recipient of Systemic White Privilege”

  1. Couple things:

    * Scott, you are aware that Catholics are Christians? In fact, they are the first Christians. Martin Luther rebelled–much over the book of James–and created a new sect. And Protestants have been branching off ever since.

    * You said in a previous post you lived in Makakilo. I lived in Ewa Beach for a decade when I was growing up, and went to majority non-white schools. Depending on the timeframe you lived in Makakilo, it might have been the same?

  2. Yes, I was aware that Catholics are Christians. I was trying to point out that both the catholics and protestants have been sending out their own “discoverers” and people to proselytize their brands of religions.

    Very cool that you lived in Eva beach. I lived on Oahu from 62-75. I lived in Makakilo around 67-70. Moved to Pearl City after that. When were you there?

  3. Well, this is the very notion that so many whites react against. They conflate acknowledgement of historical injustices tilted against non-whites, into hatred of whites.

    I’ve been called a white-hating racist 1001 times online simply for pointing out that racism exists. This is one of the central discussions which must occur in this country if we are to recover from our current headlong pitch into dictatorship.

  4. I was in Hawaii from 1974 – 1984. I remember the big draws about Pearl City was the sewing store with fabric and other sewing needs the Checkers-and-Pogo skyslide and racecarts, and “the Monkey bar” with real monkeys. Ewa Beach “back in the day” was very rural, surrounded on 2 sides by sugar cane fields and 1 side by the ocean. We had a Pizza Hut, a Woolworth’s, a First Hawaiian Bank, and a couple of mom&pop shops. So we all went to the beach. I credit my ability to sit in meditation to the days spent sitting on the beach watching the waves.

    Also: Racism absolutely exists. I agree that we need to educate ourselves and have the conversation.

  5. Makes me think of all the times I’ve been verbally assaulted in free thought forums. Many have very few freethinkers. So where just now learning how much Trump paid in taxes. Time will tell how much of those returns are legal, but it goes to show us how titled America is towards systemic, economic imbalance.

  6. Yep, Scott, I empathize.

    Free-thought forums, lol. The culture prevails, however, and so most of them are, predictably, nests of in-grown regs jumping newbies to aggrandize their own egos.

    Humans. And mostly Yanks. Very problematic.

    Once I’d left USA culture and was looking at it from the outside, I was shocked to notice how similar all Yanks were. Really, the mainstream yuppy Republicans and the hippies really were from the same culture! When I re-entered the USA I found that all of them were annoying to me, as I’d sort of un-assimilated to Yank culture.

    So, online I find that boards constructed so as to seemingly agree with my perspectives still are full of people exercising their culture, and it is a culture of competition, exclusion, elitism, anti-intellectualism and cliquish arrogance. The best one can do is attempt to transcend all that.

  7. I was in the army in Frankfurt for 3 years and taught English in Korea for 2 years. It can be a real culture shock going both ways. Asian culture in particular, is much different that western culture. Then, of course, when you come back to America our own idiosyncrasies are really obvious. I hesitate to guess what the world thinks of the average American these days.

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