We live in a culture tainted by oppression. People with privileges they did not earn exert oppressive power over other people based on differences that person cannot control. Skin color. Ethnicity. Gender. Age. To an extent, socio-economic status. Religion. These forces are called Racism, Sexism, Ageism, Homophobia, Trans-phobia, discriminated aggression of all sorts. These things are systemic and not good and someday must be changed.
Meanwhile, other questions arise about how different minority groups interact with each other.
A young gay black man is talking with an older transgendered white man. Which of them has more privilege than the other? The one with male privilege? The one with skin privilege? What if one or both of them is homeless?
Two straight white men walk together. One is homeless. Do they have the same privilege, or does socio economic status become a factor?
Homeless white woman and a wealthy black man? What if one of them is gender-non-conforming?
What kind of privilege does a woman have? A black woman? A black homeless woman? Would a black homeless transgendered woman have more privilege than a straight white homeless woman if the white woman had HIV or a police record?
Questions like these explore who has more privilege and, by consequence, who is the more oppressed. I suppose these questions could be productive if different groups use them to learn about each other.
On their own, though, these are the wrong questions.
The black man and white woman, transgendered woman and cisgendered man, homeless and housed, old and young, national and immigrant person alike should be asking questions like these:
How can I help you?
How can I understand you better?
Where do you need someone to stand up for you?
What is your experience of life?
How are we similar?
What can you teach me about life?
What do you understand about God that I do not?
I challenge the Christian church, who believes that she has theological privilege, to ask questions like these of those to whom she preaches.
We must ask questions like these for no two people are equal or comparable. Some groups are very similar, but everyone’s story is different. Everyone’s suffering and pain tolerance are different and we all have different strengths. Comparison questions that do not lead to helping questions are simply unproductive.
Understanding questions, on the other hand, are highly productive if they lead to compassionate actions.
Hating someone is very difficult when you deeply understand them. This is how compassion can come from understanding. Let us seek to understand each other so that we may be more compassionate for compassion is required to live well and in peace with others.