Examining White Privilege – Clear Eye; Blind Spot – An Essay by Julie Clark

Clear Eye Blind Spot

Clear Eye Blind Spot

I recently had an appointment with an eye doctor. I have sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease.

My pulmonologist asked me to get my eyes checked, as it is common for this condition to be found in one’s eyes. So I did. There was a small growth on my retina. The doctor said it looks like it’s been there a long time, but we should keep track of it. One of the symptoms of this growth is that I have a bigger blind spot in my left eye than in my right eye.

Blind spots. We all have them.

We do not realize we have them until someone points something out to us that we missed, for instance, my eye doctor showing me the big spot where I didn’t see the flashing dots on my exam.

This Sunday, I enjoyed a lovely church gathering that met in a home. It had all the elements that I love: good, worshipful singing, an inspiring message, lots of fellowship (and good coffee), and at the end a time to pray with one another. Before we broke up to pray, the prayer leader mentioned an impression he had that there were those of us with eye troubles needing prayer. I remembered my growth creating a bigger than normal blind spot.  The sister I was praying with also had something going on with one of her eyes that was causing blurry vision. We prayed for each other, then she mentioned that there were probably spiritual implications to our troubles as well. I filed that away, but not before I felt a little defensive. Nothing came to mind. It can’t be about that, I thought to myself.

Well, isn’t that what a blind spot is? We don’t see it.

The next weekend, my husband Bill and I heard Jim Wallis speak about “America’s original sin”, then the next night we watched a documentary on Mohammad Ali. Now, I’m not a fan of boxing and was a little resistant to it, but he nudged me a bit and let me know it was not really about boxing. So I settled in and was immediately gripped by the story of this man. Of course, I had heard about him – he was famous, a champion! But I didn’t know his backstory: how he had suffered as a black man against a world where white men called the shots and had caused so much pain and suffering for him, his people, and his ancestors. I didn’t know why he converted to Islam or what that meant for him and so many others at the time.

The next morning, I woke up to my normal routine. Bill had made my coffee, I gathered my devotional books, a Bible, my journal, and I sat down to have my devotions.

It was then that my Great Prompter, my Great Reminder, reminded me of my blind spot.

Bill and I are grappling with what is going on in our nation at this time. Maybe white privilege is a big blind spot for a lot of us white folks. We get defensive and edgy when it is mentioned. We want to defend ourselves. It wasn’t me, my folks were mostly from the North and not wealthy. What privilege? We need reminding and we need our more enlightened white friends and friends of color to help us see what we don’t see. We have benefited and been given benefits simply because we are white while our brothers and sisters of color do not receive such help.

I never had to have “the talk” with my sons or my daughter about what to do if you’re pulled over by the police. Please listen thoughtfully to this song, “Hands Up”, embedded in this excellent article!

I didn’t even know about this until the last couple of years when so many videos circulated with black people (mostly men) being shot and killed at routine traffic stops. I had seen some previews though when we were driving from Atlanta to Birmingham one summer afternoon not too long ago. I saw so many people being pulled over. They were all black; not one single white person was pulled over on that short trip. What was this about? I wondered. I think it was a magnification of what has been going on all around the country, not just the South.

It takes a lot of effort to see what we do not see.

We need help. We need friends and family members to tell us what we are missing. I have an extra big blind spot. What I see, I see fine with my glasses on. Yet there are some things I do not see. I need others to tell me.

I need to push down my defenses and listen!

I appreciate my friends of color who have shared their stories with me. It helps me see more clearly what I would not normally see. I am making efforts to listen to podcasts, read books, and watch movies on this issue and discuss with others what I am learning. Jim Wallis reminded us of the words of Jesus: “You did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) With those words, he reminds us this is not a political issue, but a theological issue.

We have another opportunity upon us to move towards healing and reconciliation.

I want to be a part of the movement to acknowledge and repent of the racism and white supremacy that our nation was founded on. This is the road to healing.