“If when you walk into a store, the workers sometimes suspect you are going to steal something because of your race, take one step back.”
“If you see people who share your identity reflected on television and in movies in roles you don’t consider degrading, take a step forward.”
When we began the exercise, we were standing in a row, holding hands. Our facilitators took turns reading a series of statements: if this is true for you, step this way. If that is true for you, step that way. It wasn’t long before our chain of hands was broken.
Before this session, I would have said I was aware of my privilege as a white, affluent, college-educated, Jewish cis-gender woman. I’ve read White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. But it turned out that I wasn’t nearly as aware of privilege as I had thought.
In Jewish Renewal we speak often in the paradigm of the “four worlds”, of assiyah (physicality), yetzirah (emotion), briyah (thought) and atzilut (spirit/essence). In briyah, the world of intellect, I think I did have a handle on my own privilege. But when I had the physical experience of having to let go of the hands of my friends, and of seeing at the end where each of us was positioned, the realities impacted me in the emotional and spiritual realms, and they hit me hard.
This exercise, often called The Privilege Walk, was part of our session on “Challenges in Jewish-Muslim Engagement” at a wonderful retreat for Jewish and Muslim emerging religious leaders, held this month in Chester, Connecticut, and organized by the Reconstructionist Rabbinic College’s department of multifaith initiatives...
Read my whole essay at Zeek: New Depths in Jewish-Muslim Dialogue: Jewish Privilege.
Deep thanks to RRC and to the Henry Luce Foundation for making the retreat possible, and to my Jewish and Muslim sisters who attended, facilitated, and taught at the retreat.
Shabbat shalom and chodesh Tamuz tov to my Jewish readers; to my Muslim readers, Ramadan Mubarak!