I Challenged Some White People And Men To Check Their Privilege For Lent. And It’s Happening.

Anti-Racism for Lent

Lent was not a big deal in the denomination I grew up in but, on the weekend before this year’s Ash Wednesday, I found myself making a list of 40 ways white Americans could be less racist.

At around action item 28 I realized two things. First: making a list of 40 ways to antiracist is a lot of work. Second: it wasn’t my work to do. We don’t expect sex slaves to end human trafficking worldwide; so why do we expect for black people to do most of the heavy lifting in pursuing racial justice?

I posted to Facebook:

In response several people have taken the challenge and have been posting thoughts, articles, videos and resources to show how their neighbors can confront white supremacy in their lives. A group of seven individuals even started a Facebook group called Repenting of Racism for Lent where they’ve developed prayers and spiritual practices for those participating in #AntiRacism for Lent.

It is difficult for me to capture what seeing the response to #AntiRacismForLent has meant to me so far. Although many involved have already been actively involved in pursuing racial justice, I’ve seen some who are otherwise not very active in confronting racism become advocates. Some of them have even started hashtagging #AntiRacismForLife. It gives me hope and that is an understatement.

Men Are Cancelled For Lent

As for me, I felt compelled to do something similar to what I challenged white people to do.

The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements had stirred up a lot of conversations, not just about sexual assault but about masculinity in general, that had been causing me to reflect for sometime.

Dr. King once said of white people:

Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to re-educate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn.

I realize that the same is true of me.

I realize that as a man that I am not aware of the everyday threats and challenges that women experience. I realize that I have a cursory knowledge at best about the historic struggles for women’s empowerment. I realize that in many ways — some of which that I’m not even aware of — I am a part of a group that generally causes another group a great deal of pain, but I have not — before now — committed myself to knowing the details of the everyday injustices that women face, and how I might be personally complicit in their social pain. I felt that for Lent I needed to begin to address this.

So, this season I’ve pushed the male authors and male-centered media I’ve been consuming into the margins in order to prioritize listening to women. I’ve postponed the release of the final entries of my series on the book of Exodus until after Easter. And I’ve invited men to join me in doing this in their own way. We’re sharing articles, videos, and prayers, and thoughts in a closed Facebook group called #MenAreCancelledForLent.

The Type of Fast the Lord Wants

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I posted something on the Internet and somebody had an opinion about it, but I have been surprised that I’ve received some backlash for putting these challenges out there.

Of course, some people came out the woodwork saying “Lent isn’t about…” and “We need to focus on spiritual things…” blah, blah, blah.

But the words of the prophet Isaiah are in my head:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
 and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry them,
 and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:6–7)

Since we understand Lent to be a time of fasting, these words couldn’t be more relevant to the season. It’s great to give up chocolate or social media if that’s what one needs to do that. But we would do well to remember that the type of fast that God is looking for includes justice. So it’s totally appropriate to the season for people to pause and consider how they may be complicit in the societal injustices in their world and to repent.


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