In her book, Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, Beverly Daniel Tatum, psychologist and educator (President of Spellman University) offers a great metaphor for how we participate in the -isms that hold some people back and empower others to get ahead. She likens these “systems of advantage” to a moving walkway.
Think about the moving walkway at an airport. The walkway is an electronic, moving sidewalk that moves the people standing or walking on it, regardless of their participation. Those who are not on the walkway move at the speed of their own effort. This is how it is with systems of advantage. Like the moving walkway, they carry those who have the advantage toward the goal (for example, personal wealth and achievement) more easily. Those without access to the walkway may well get to the goal as well, but it will be slower and more arduous.
Here’s an example, people with disabilities are disadvantaged in our culture. They are next to the walkway trying to keep up as best they can. Those who are able-bodied are on the walkway. The system is designed for those who can use stairs, read public notices, hear announcements, use their arms, etc. Some people may be advocating for keeping the disabled from the “mainstream”. But most of us blithely unaware of our advantage, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t benefiting. We’re still on the walkway. Insert agism, sexism, racism, hetero-normativism and you can see the same thing. The systems we’ve created advantage some and disadvantage others.
The only way we can stop moving ahead of our disabled siblings is to get off the walkway - change the systems that advantage us. We can't just turn around and pretend we're just kind hearted people who don't support the advantage becuase, like it or not, we are still moving along and getting the advantage!
Jesus modeled for us what it looks like to actively dismantle systems of privilege. He intentionally hung out with the "wrong people". He actively flipped the tables of those who kept others from entering the temple. How about us?
Here are some questions to reflect on:
Rector's Corner posts written by Pastor Rebecca.