By the Rev. Grace Han
I moved to the United States from South Korean when I was 7 years old. Because I moved here as a child, I could speak English without an accent, rather than my parents did—with a noticeable Korean accent. I was always aware of that privilege, that it granted me access to places and things and people that my parents didn’t always have. I knew the power of that privilege—I could dispute electric bills over the phone without being dismissed or discounted. I could talk back when questioned without worrying about being misunderstood or ignored. I also knew the responsibility of that privilege, that it wasn’t mine to abuse or to use for my own benefit, but to advocate for my parents and for those who may not have that privilege.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that privilege in the last few weeks. What is our responsibility in the face of injustice, suffering, and death? What is our responsibility to advocate for and to stand up for those who may not share in that same privilege?
In the last few weeks, we all witnessed George Floyd’s death on television. We saw a police officer abuse his privilege until it led to another man’s death. In Central Park, we saw a white woman weaponize her privilege against a black man. What would have these situations looked like if rather than using privilege for their own benefit, they saw their privilege as a responsibility? How might this change our relationships with one another?
Too often we associate privilege as something negative, either as something to apologize for or something dismissed as political correctness. But both of these understandings miss what privilege is really about. Privilege is our responsibility to advocate for those who may not share in that same privilege. Privilege is our responsibility to care for one another because when one member suffers, we all suffer with it. Privilege is the sacred responsibility that we share in trust with one another, because God created us to be one body, with one faith, one baptism, through the same Spirit.
Over the last week, I attended a Prayer Vigil in Old Town, Alexandria as well as a March for Justice along Route 1 in Alexandria. I attended these events becaus,e as Christians, we have a responsibility to care for one another, to stand up for one another, and to call out injustice. That responsibility is not a burden, but a privilege, and one that I hope we can claim together.
-The Rev. Grace Han is lead pastor of Trinity UMC, Alexandria.