One of my favorite movies is Finding Nemo. It tells the story of a father’s love for his ever maturing and adventurous child. One day in a fit of frustration with his father’s overprotective nature, Nemo ventures away from the reef to touch the bottom of a fishing boat. He is captured by a scuba diver and taken away. The rest of the movie tells the story of Marlin, Nemo’s father and Dory, an unexpected friend, as they search for Nemo. One of the first “characters” they meet is Bruce the shark. Marlin and Dory are immediately brought to an “AA-type” meeting for sharks. The gathering begins with a pledge “fish are friends not food.”
As I have been replaying this scene in my mind, one question keeps surfacing. When a Great White shark tells a small fish that he has become a vegetarian, who has to have the faith that the relationship will work out? Bruce can change his convictions at any time and without any warning. What assurances do Marlin and Dory have that Bruce will stick to his new diet?
Some of the biggest challenges facing folks who want to move beyond the evils of White Privilege have to to with relationship and reconciliation. How do Anglos get to a place of honest peer-to-peer relationships with persons of color?
Many who are White have owned and are owning the privilege(s) which have come simply because of skin color. We have also recognized that privilege can be costly, especially for persons of color. We have received preferential treatment when looking for work. We are much less likely to be stopped for routine traffic violations. The War on Drugs has been waged primarily in communities of color. Life has not always been easy for White folks, but our privilege has secured as world that is clearly tilted in our favor.
In many ways to be White is much like being a Great White Shark. When we reach out to others asking for forgiveness, seeking reconciliation and honesty desiring relationship, it is critical to never forget who we are – sharks, people with access to power and privilege. I for one never asked to be born with the power and privilege that comes to me simply because of the color of my skin.
Just because I reach out to a person of color with an honest desire to be friends does immediately imply that I have quit being scary. It is important to never forget that it takes a tremendous amount of faith to look past the teeth of a Great White Shark and see a potential friend.