… Or Another White Woman Savior.

As I have been thinking more and more about this blog, what bigger picture goals I have, themes to write about, etc. something has been bothering me. I was given the advice to explore and unpack my “privileged white woman whining” comment before even starting the blog and initially I felt like I had done the needed exploring. But in the past few days since posting my “white woman whining” I have found myself continuing to go back and to re-read my last post. I have come to realize that I keep going back because deep down I know I haven’t done the advice justice.

It hit me tonight as I was reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me I had forgotten about the other side – the “White Woman Savior” complex. I had forgotten to explore the “I’ve experienced this once so I can speak for everyone” side.  Yes I made a few statements in my last post about not wanting to equate my experiences to the larger problems, but I don’t feel as though I really acknowledged what the other side of the spectrum could become.

I have just barely started Coates’ book but it has been enough to flip my world about bodies and embodiment. It has already taught me to look beyond people’s actions and reactions and think about how those decisions are ways of protecting the body. It has also made me realize that as much as I have to worry about how my white female body is treated, I’m still nowhere close to being able to imagine what others are going through. This is the realization clicked with how I’ve been feeling about my blog. I in no way wanted or want to write anything that could be interpreted as me saying “because I’ve experienced such and such I know how it feels for everyone and this is how to make it better.”

These realizations have brought up new thoughts about goals for my blog. Who really is my audience? Of course I hope for a diverse audience to create discussions and explore issues more deeply. But who really do I hope to have an impact on when it comes to views on poverty and homelessness? I said in the first blog, if I could just change one person that I will have accomplished something, but who really is that person?

I don’t know the exact answers yet. But I am aware of and always exploring them.

Not Another Privileged White Woman Whining…

My number one concern with starting this blog has been about whether I would end up sounding like another white woman whining about a few hard months in a long life of privilege. (And if I ever do get to this point, PLEASE call me out on it!) But in talking with others and processing what is/was happening to me, I have come to realize that my voice and my experiences could be of value to others. In going through life facing systemic issues I only read about in the past, I am learning more about empathy, imago dei, social justice, love, and ministry in ways no professor could ever teach. In sharing, I hope others have a chance to learn from me.

A year ago, I was finishing up my last year of seminary and taking a pastoral care class on homelessness and poverty. Part of the requirement for the class was to spend a significant amount of time volunteering with St. Louis Winter Outreach, an all volunteer group that reaches out to the homeless specifically when the weather outside becomes deadly. (Check them out! http://www.stlwinteroutreach.org/) The experiences I had transporting sojourners and volunteering in shelters and the stories I heard made homelessness real for me. It was no longer just an issue to deal with or about people in a bad spot on their own accord. It was about people with names and stories who ran into a spell of bad luck and then were systemically stuck. I had so many personal misconceptions blown out of the water by this class.

This year my husband and I are now the people in a bad spot due to a combination of bad luck and a few bad financial choices that anyone could make. We are stuck in systemic patterns that people don’t normally associate with educated white people. This year instead of having the misconceptions, I am the one being judged by them. I know that there are people here in the United States and the world that are experiencing the same things we are but on a far more serious level, and I don’t want to sound as though I am equating the two. Rather I hope to bring new light on how easy it is for anyone to be in the same spot, and in doing so bring some humanity to the policies of homelessness and poverty. Too often society deems people as unqualified to make basic decisions about life and in doing so forgets that all are created in the image of God. And that’s just the beginning…

In sharing my insight about experiences and policies I hope that people will look at issues of poverty and homelessness and the people who experience them in a new way. And maybe just maybe, someone will see the imago dei instead of more government spending going to waste.

As the song goes “Feeling the ache of a violent world, Let us open new sails to winds of change…” (Faithfully Angry by Richard Bruxvoort Colligan)