Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Somerset Hills

Open minds, loving hearts, helping hands


Follow up to a time for all ages Oct 11 on White Privilege

Author Sarah Ahrens, Written Oct 12, 2015

Sunday service on October 11, 2015 included a time for all ages- or a “game” for all ages- where contestants were challenged to throw a sock into the Wonder Box.  Contestants of varying ages and heights were placed at varying distances, some had more socks, others had fewer.

Amy was the closest and had 3 socks and easily threw them into the box.  Grace was second closest and had four socks- and also got some extra help from Mr. B in getting the socks into the box, as well as multiple retries!  Aidan was third closest with only two socks and Amy in front of him- though he had good aim he was just a tad long on distance.  Jen was the farthest away and while made a valiant throw, it missed the mark.

For those closest it was easier- even “boring” in how easy it was and for those farther away it wasn’t as much fun and seemed unfair that they were farther and had fewer chances.
This exercise I borrowed from my colleague at the First Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Hunterdon County, which was inspired by this youtube clip.
I modified it slightly- using socks instead of crumpled paper- and I intentionally quantified the number of chances participants had.

While this was merely a game of “sock basketball”, the real world metaphor has profound consequences.  When “making  a basket” means succeeding in life- moving up the income ladder, getting an education, job, housing- not making a basket can have long range repercussions for one’s own life and for generations that follow.

Privilege- white privilege as the focus of the service in relation to racial justice- means starting off that much closer to the basket with more chances to make it.  Moreover, there are fewer “people”- obstacles, barriers- in your way.  It is an unearned privilege that has nothing to do with hard work, intelligence, skill- it is simply being lucky enough to be white.
I closed with these questions (and a few more added):

I wonder where you were born, where you are in relation to the “basket”?
I wonder what those closer to the basket, with privilege, can do to help those farther away from the basket?
I wonder how they can not only help those farther away from the basket, but reform the whole “game” so it is fair and just, and the distance to the basket won’t matter?

While white people enjoy assorted unearned privileges by virtue of being white, unfortunately those privileges come at the expense of those who are not white.  People of color not only do not enjoy white privilege, but endure oppression as a result of a system that engenders white privilege.
The Black Lives Matter movement is a response to this system, and more UU congregations are expressing support in various ways.  Check out the resolution passed at the UUA General Assembly 2015, resources on the Standing on the Side of Love website, and this article in the UU World.