This is a post I wrote for God’s Politics blog as my contribution to the current conversation on Racial Reconciliation Challenge to New Monasticism initiated by Jason and Vonetta Storbakken from Radical Living Community in NYC.
What I wrote may sting a bit, this kind of stuff always do. So I am expecting some heat to come from it. I expect some push back and defensive comments, but hopefully this will add to the conversation.
New Monasticism and White Privilege
What Vonetta and Jason have done with their provocative blog post is to help shed light on the homogeneous white and male expression in New Monasticism and beyond. By that I mean how “natural” it seems that most of the perceived leadership of this movement is white and male. I am certain there are women and men of color alongside. People of color are often considered strong companions and wise counselors, but often in hierarchies of power, people of color are behind the scenes–not in the spotlight. Part of the luxury of oblivious white privilege is that it is normal to have people of color around, while for the most part being oblivious that they are systematically assigned a place on the sidelines. It is not by chance that it is hard to find people of color as prominent figures in spreading the vibes of New Monasticism through books, conferences, and new media. This also true of many other new emerging expressions of contemporary Christianity.
This predominantly white expression of New Monasticism is not a personal thing, it is part of a larger system of social categories, social identity and perception. New Monastics, white and of color, are not above or beyond the psychology that structures our racial and social identity and consciousness. Nor do we live in a vacuum where we are not affected–positively or negatively–by these structures. So this conversation is not about just individuals, but about bigger dominant systems of oppression. That said, it does get personal sometimes–and not by choice. The unearned privilege that comes with being white may not be something people choose or take. The advantage is given by the system of social categorization, but the realization that some might benefit from a social construct while others are marginalized is a tough pill to swallow.