The Privilege of Leaving, or Staying.

Photo by Jody England Hansen

Inspired by James C. Jones (Beyond the Block podcast) Facebook post, January 16, 2020, 10:50 a.m. “Marginalized pain shouldn’t be exploited for privileged agendas.”


The privilege of leaving…or staying.

About 55 years ago, when I was a child, I saw news footage of firehoses, police and their dogs, attacking black people during civil rights actions.

I cried all night. Even then not realizing I had the privilege of being upset and shocked, while in a safe home, being comforted by my parents, who were not in danger of being attacked.

I was appalled to hear racist rhetoric from many people, including church leaders.

And I had the privilege of talking about it with those who would acknowledge and encourage my own personal experience with God.

I was privileged to see a God who loved all without condition. I had the privilege of growing up with people who could help me see that racism and sexism were human constructs, and not decreed by God.

I was privileged to have a father who introduced me to activism when I was 8, and I saw it as a way to take part in creating new constructs in the world, and my life.

My activism, in social justice, in the world, in my church, all my life, has been a process of confronting myself.

I can’t help but yearn for it to reach a comfortable level. But I know that is not the nature of it.

Creating a fulfilling life in this world is about leaving the Garden, not returning to it.

Right now, I live in Salt Lake City, and am involved in advocacy and activism here at a time when a surprising number and variety of people are joining this work, and this conversation.

I am a white, cisgender, heterosexual, 9th generation Mormon woman. The only way I could be more privileged here in this place is if I presented as male, and if I had some more zeroes at the end of the amount of money in my bank account.

I do have the constant defensive radar that all women I know have, to be aware of how to protect myself wherever I am.

But in general…

I do not need to fear for my life or livelihood when I speak passionately at a press conference, or stubbornly interrupt a legislator at a town hall meeting, or testify at a legislative hearing, or at church. I know I will go home to a secure and comfortable house. I know I can love who I love, and not be afraid to show that love.

How often am I only showing up in the convenience of my privileged activism?

Or how often will I look for and see where discrimination is happening, and then stay and be a part of transforming the real life places of the marginalized?

The problems that create danger and exclusion are not isolated to one group, or church, or nation, or business, or family. These are human problems. With my privilege, I could leave any place where I do not find agreement, or acceptance. Then, if I wished, I could go and find another, more comfortable community. But I cannot leave the place of being human, or being among humans.

And if I did think I could leave any community, if I claim my so called integrity won’t let me remain where humans are still racist, or sexist, or homophobic – what does my integrity say about those lgbtq children being born to all humans. What does my integrity say about people of color, or LGBTQ people who seek to follow Christ everywhere, building the kingdom where they are, as Christ would, not waiting for convenience, or comfort, or agreement, or permission? What does my integrity say to the message from God that has pierced me – “Heaven is here, eternal life is now. You create it where you are.”

My privilege is worthless… nothing… If I do not use it to be in the place of woundedness, opposition, inconvenience – the place of grace, of creation, of unconditional, universal love of God.

In this place of seeking life, many voices echo what Christ lived – the only way to overcome evil, is with love. Difficult, confronting, inconvenient, overwhelming love.

It must be created in the midst of where it does not yet exist.

I have learned to see that Christ’s great message to me is this… If there is anyone you don’t love, you don’t love anyone.

Martin Luther King taught, if hate and injustice exist anywhere, it exists everywhere.

Using my privilege of leaving will only take me to another place to leave.

I seek to transform, where I am, on what Martin Luther King describes as “The Whole Jericho Road”.

“On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.,
A Time to Break Silence, in A Testament of Hope.

Each day can be a day to show up wherever I am in life, and create a new world.

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3 Responses

  1. Mormonish says:

    Thank you for articulating this so beautifully: Heaven is here, eternal life is now – you create it where you are.

  2. Dawn M Craner says:

    I can not thank you enough for this post today. I keep struggling with why I would stay with a church(LDS) that does not treat my LGBTQ+ family the same as other members. Why do I stay…I will stay to make it better for other members, to make it less painful for other families, to listen to those who feel like no one does, to see those families and individuals and welcome them with love and grace and a warm place to be. Thank you for your strength and for sharing your talent with the written word.

  3. Allemande Left says:

    Thank goodness for people like you who are staying and working on the transformation. Others will find it best to leave for their own mental health and overall survival. Both options are acceptable and necessary paths.

    Regarding “using my privilege to leave will only take me to another place to leave”… that may be true but it is a path of discovery. The journey is an exploration. I have been attending a sangha weekly for about 4 months. It has helped me. I might not stay with it forever but it is good now. It is part of my path.

    I believe we will eventually rest in God and then we will not need to search any longer.
    You are probably already there Jody.

    Thank you for what you are doing.

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