White Privilege

My son is finishing his baseball season this week.  He’s in “machine pitch” minor league.  That is supposed to mean that there’s a spring-loaded arm that flings a baseball at a consistent speed to a consistent location over home plate where a little boy stands ready to take on the world.  That’s what it is supposed to mean.  But the league, which has 12 teams, has at it’s use a total of 1 old and broken, inconsistent pitching machine.

Here’s something else to know about this league: the children are placed on teams based on neighborhood.  In fact, within 1/4 mile of our house there are 6 boys on my son’s team.  The coach lives two houses down, and the assistant coach lives three houses down.  We are blessed to live in a really nice neighborhood.  The lawns are manicured, the houses well-kept, dads are playing ball in the back yard with their sons and my next door neighbor, the police officer, plays catch with Alex and me.  In fact my former congressman lives down the street.  I say all to say that we live in a very upper middle class area.

My son’s coach, disgusted by the lack of machines in “machine pitch” basebal,l decided to use some expendible cash and purchase his own machine.  We practiced with it, and the kids got used to the speed.  Each time we played another team there were some significant differences.  These other kids did not have a machine, so we used ours…they were not used to the speed and weren’t able to hit well.  It was clear these kids had not had as much back yard time.  One last difference: these other teams were put together based on their own neighborhoods.  Our team is the only one with no children of color.

The denomination I’m a part of is going through a process of trying to understand white privilege.  As I’m sitting in a task force to lead the denomination in the conversation, I came to think of the Holland, Michigan little league.  My son’s team wipes up the field with about every team they come across because they have a distinct advantage with a machine and, while this is obviously an uninformed blanket statement, plenty of parental back yard time.

As a white male I have many privileges that most people of color do not have.  I’ve outlined one above.  Coming to notice things like this make me uncomfortable.  There are definitely some deep wounds that my denomination needs to address, but also some that I need to address.  The whole idea of white privilege brings about questions of justice.  Do I ask my neighbor to stop using his machine?  That doesn’t seem very “American” and wouldn’t go over well in my neighborly relationship.  Do I, as a white male, offer to purchase machines for each team?  I think there’s a distinct problem with this, too.  Do I attempt to make changes to the way the league is organized – bringing up the idea of mixing neighborhoods?  I happen to like knowing my neighbors in this manner.

One thing is for sure: I’m uncomfortable.  And that is a start.  And that is a good thing.

 

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  1. November 24, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Jim, sending you some encouragement along this journey — fellow Dutch man 🙂 Thank you for posting and sharing -it’s good to continue the dialogue outloud for others to walk along side of you. Blessings –

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