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Romal Tune and Richard Rohr on white privilege

Romal Tune and Richard Rohr on white privilege

Photo from Huffington Post story

On Huffington Post, Romal Tune writes about spending a day with Richard Rohr, the famous Franciscan friar and prolific author, and shares a conversation on white privilege that he hadn’t anticipated having.

Tune, author of “God’s Graffiti: Inspiring Stories for Teens”, starts off by asking Rohr’s perspective on white privilege and his own role, before moving into action-oriented questions about how we can dismantle white privilege. Rohr uses this question to talk about the nature of evil and the sins we hide when we pretend that racism and white privilege don’t exist.

From the article:

Rohr: Evil is always incapable of critiquing itself. Evil depends upon disguise and tries to look like virtue. We have to fully cooperate in God’s constant work, spoken so clearly in Mary’s prayer (Luke 1:52) which is always “bringing down the mighty from their thrones and exalting the lowly”. It is the de facto story of history, art, and drama. And we have to get in on the story.

The article ends with Rohr admitting that he’s worried that he’s said things which will make people hate him, noting that he wants to be loved and liked, which he identifies as very close to white privilege and entitlement. Are there other faith leaders speaking about white privilege with the same level of openness and sincerity? Do you think many hold back out of fear of disapproval from other white people?


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Scott Fisher

Mr. Streever, what I find interesting about your posts is that I don’t see any mention of how to change the hearts and minds of people. By your comments I take it that you would call for more laws, penalties and other forms of forced coercion to get people to act as you, and others like you, think they should. Now I don’t doubt your sincerity, but the coercive prescription that you seem to advocate ultimately is very destructive in creating the just society that we all seek. Using one form of coercion to end another form of coercion is not a model for success, but rather one for failure.
Perhaps we should try another way, the Jesus way. For all the identification of the evils of racism and the other issues that you mention, nowhere did I see a solution that involves Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us that all evil comes out of the human heart and I believe that’s true. If the heart and mind is changed, the person is changed. The scriptural witness is that Holy Spirit is the vehicle that changes a man or woman from a hateful,mean spirited, and bigoted person to one who loves his/her neighbor and respects all persons. Paul spoke of this phenomena as becoming new in Christ with the old being cast off. Martin Luther King said “darkness cannot drive out darkness,only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Let’s bring Jesus into the discussion and put Him where He should be, at the very center.

Scott Fisher

Rev. Kit, thank you for that further clarification. The comments on secular diversity training are not surprising as that type of training has no ability to change the human heart and any mention of Jesus Christ in the workplace isn’t received well. The Baptismal Covenant is definitely the right place to start. Would you mind sharing what treatise from Bishop Tutu is used?

Kit Tobin+

Thank you, David Allen. I have been an AntiRacism Trainer, based on the TEC program, for seven years – required in Diocese of Rochester for all clergy and lay elected persons, as well as encouraged for all. Awareness that all of us who happen to have white skin are by that fact privileged comes as a surprise to many. Many who are not racist, but have simply not been confronted by the concept of white privilege. That aspect of our program has enlightened and often changed participants’ behavior in a positive way. We – white – need to be continually aware of so much we take for granted, and education within the Church is, I believe, a key.

Scott Fisher

Mr. Tobin, please educate us on how antiracism training enlightens and changes behavior. I’ve been told by participants who’ve gone through this type of program, usually job related, that they felt an attempt was made to badger them into admitting some sort of culpability or subconscious racism. When they told the trainer that he/she was mistaken, these folks were told that they were in denial etc. Now TEC training lexicon may be different so, some further discussion from you would be helpful.

Kit Tobin+

Scott Fisher – The TEC training program is based on our Baptismal Covenant, Pastoral Letters on Racism from the House of Bishops, A treatise from ArchBishop Desmund Tutu, prayer, engaging all participants in interaction – dialog not debate.
We present as a two person team, a person of color and a white person: one male, one female, one lay, one ordained. we do not badger.
We solicit evaluations and attempt to improve our presentations with reference to both negative and positive feedback. Many who have come to our trainings have had diversity training in secular settings – the general comment is that the TEC approach is more positive and inspiring, encouraging ongoing personal spiritual growth.
Thank you for raising the question. In further discussion, I would prefer to be addressed as Kit Tobin or Rev. Kit as I am a woman.

Scott Fisher

By the way David I see that the politically correct editorial staff have kindly edited out the comment from my previous post. So, now you can relax and hopefully we can have a more cordial discussion going forward.

David Allen

You have failed to grasp that I am part of the politically correct editorial staff. I am one of the ones who decide what is a tantrum and name calling.

As a person of color I have literally stared US racism in the face and have the scars, physical & psychological, from having done so. I’m on the receiving end of white privilege almost daily.

David Allen

You are confusing the two; racism and white privilege are two different things. A white person can have the advantage of white privilege without being racist.

Scott Fisher

Concerning your experience with racism as a person of color,I don’t doubt that this has happened to you and it saddens me greatly. I call that reprehensible conduct bigotry and prejudice,but not white privilege. No one can make you feel inferior,and you’re not, without your permission. So, don’t let them do it because they have a problem not you.Easier said than done I know,but the fact is that we are all equal in the eyes of God,richly blessed an highly favored!


Scott Fisher

Well David your questions are just fine and I believe I answered them and there’s no tantrum whatsoever. As a Southerner born and raised I know racism up close and personal in all of its naked savagery and subtlety and its still with us. Where does it reside? Where Jesus told us; in the human heart. What can change the human heart and mind permanently? Only the transforming power of the love God thru Jesus Christ our Lord. Only then can we see other people for what they really are, beloved of God and precious in His sight.

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