On this fourth day of Elul, I found myself responding to a blog by my friend/colleague, Rabbi Diane Elliot, about her own Elul work this year. She will be working on entitlement… and I thought about my attitude as I drive along Route 1 on our gorgeous California coast. And I thought about my white privilege… First the driving. I like to cruise on our small roads at my own speed. I appreciate the signs that instruct slower drivers to use turnouts to let others pass. I quickly use them when a faster car comes up behind me, and am so grateful when I come upon a slower driver who moves over. But I find myself so very irritated by the drivers who choose NOT to move–my projection is that they feel entitled to make everyone drive at their speed. My rationalization is that it is not safe to have a group of cars so close together on such windy roads. (It’s not.) But the truth is, I feel completely entitled to have the right to move along at my own speed. Even when I am driving above the speed limit. I don’t enjoy the drive when I have to pace myself at someone else’s rhythm. When someone else is in control of my journey. There’s more here than just a drive, it seems.
And the white privilege, that sense of entitlement that whites come to expect, that is so apparent in our society–when I expect the police to treat me with respect, caring and attention (based on experience, even when they write me a ticket), rather than worry that any engagement could lead to arrest or death, that is not okay. When other people cross to the other side of the street when a man of color walks by (and I, at my advancing age, become invisible), when African American men are locked up for offenses that white men would be given a slap on the wrist for–it goes from the ridiculous to the profoundly horrific. Not okay? It’s wrong. Rabbi Irwin Kula reminds us of Abraham Joshua Heschel’s quote that “few are guilty, but all are responsible.” More than a few of us may be guilty of racism, of accepting the privilege we get by virtue of the color of our skin… We–I–must be more vigilant, more responsive, and more aware of that feeling of entitlement…
Shabbat shalom. May this be a shabbat of peace and reflection.
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