I have spent the last week and a half or so grieving the results of the US Presidential election. I am angry that Secretary Clinton lost despite winning the popular vote (by more than 1 million votes). I am sad that so many Americans chose hate and bigotry over love and friendship. I am afraid for non-white friends, non-Christian friends, women, LGBTQ+ friends, etc. I am hurt that so many middle-aged, white Protestants don’t get it–don’t understand the love of Jesus that walks among the hurt and the lost to listen. I am disappointed that these same white Christians keep telling my friends who are completely heart-broken about the election and afraid for their lives to move on. That’s privilege.
Let’s focus on the middle-aged white Protestants.
Now, before you stop reading, I’m not writing this to shame any of you. I hope I am just as entitled to my opinion as you are when you say on the news or write on Facebook over and over again that the Millennials, people of color, Muslims, etc. should stop protesting, stop being lazy, and that they should “get a job.”
You are a product of your upbringing. I get it. The socialization process has a huge impact on who we become as people.
Let me explain, using an excerpt from a paper I wrote on homelessness and discrimination while living in Chile (don’t worry; this one is in English):
In the United States, the Protestant Work Ethic (PWE) is still an important cultural factor impacting behavior in the work place. PWE is derived from the 1500s’ “belief that hard work, dedication, frugality, and perseverance were pleasing to God and were necessary to salvation” (Smola and Sutton 365). As “values define what people belie[ve] to be fundamentally right or wrong[,] it could be said, then, that work values apply the definition of right and wrong to the work setting” (365). If PWE is still a prevalent value held by most Americans, then employment would be necessary, not only for the material benefits of an earned income, but also because of the belief that not only having a job, but also working hard, remaining dedicated, using ones resources wisely, and refusing to give up within that job, is “right,” while unemployment is “wrong.” According to one study, Generation X-ers, who were born in the United States between 1965 and 1977, are even more likely than Baby Boomers, who were born in the United States between 1946-1964, to believe that “working hard makes one a better person,” demonstrating not only a commitment to the PWE, but an even greater societal belief in it over time (Smola and Sutton 376). This, in turn, could lead an individual to blame himself if he is unable to meet the moral obligation of working hard to make himself a “better person,” but also could lead to discrimination by those who believe that he is a bad person because he is unemployed and thus not working hard.
Smola, Karen Wey, and Charlotte D. Sutton. “Generational Differences: Revisiting Generational Work Values for the New Millennium.” Journal of Organizational Behavior 23 (2002): 363-82. Print.
I predict the idea of the Protestant Work Ethic would also apply to those who are working but who earn less; someone who earns less money (regardless of whether she needs public assistance or not) might also be viewed as lazy or as a worse person, similar to the way that unemployed people are viewed as immoral in our society.
I, too, used to believe that I had to earn grace. I like to be in control. (All of my fights with God are about that, control, what I want, etc.) I used to believe that I had to do good works to be loved by God, to deserve forgiveness.
But I could never earn my own salvation. That’s why God sent God’s only son, completely human and completely God, a perfect “lamb” to die on the Cross for me–for all of us. I will never be perfect. Since I have accepted that, I have felt free. I am flawed, I am human, but God loves me anyway.
I still choose to do good works whenever possible, not because I believe they will make God love me more, but because I want to love on the people God has made, that they might come to know God. I want to make Earth more like Heaven, so all will have the peace that I have found in Jesus Christ.
Because of my work with social justice and advocacy, I’ve come to see the Cross as a systemic solution to sacrifices. Before Jesus died for us, people who believed in God would make sacrifices over and over, so that God would forgive them, and so that they could be in relationship with God. Since Christ died and rose again, we no longer have to make sacrifices; we can already have a relationship with God because he has already forgiven us for everything; nothing we do could make God love us less.
Anyways…It did not hit me until I read so many comments from middle-aged white Protestants about the protesters’ laziness: you might still believe that you are earning your salvation, that “working harder makes one a better person” and makes one pleasing to God, and that by extension, the millennials, people of color, and Muslims, etc. who are protesting are inferior because you perceive them to be lazy “crybabies” who are spending their time as prophets, advocating for justice, instead of accepting white supremacy and the status quo.
Let me share one more graphic, which I hope will show that people of color are not lazy, but rather victimized by the system of white supremacy that we white people benefit from:
As you can see from the above chart, even with Professional Degrees, Black people earn $25,614 less than White people, and Hispanic people earn $48,714 less. You might believe that people of color are lazier than white people, but that is simply not true. Something else is going on here.
Could it be that people with the same (or even superior) qualifications whose names “sound Black” are chosen less often for jobs than their white peers? Could it be because we have internalized unconscious racial biases that make us believe that white people work harder or are more deserving of forgiveness or are less threatening than their non-white peers? Could it be that white people feel more entitled to ask for raises? Could it have to do with types of professions pursued by each racial group, a result of the socialization process? Who knows?
What I think we do know based on the above data is that White people earn more than their Black and Hispanic peers at every level of education. In other words, people of color are not lazy. No matter how hard Black and Hispanic people work, they will never earn as much as their White peers until we work to dismantle our system of white supremacy.
Of course, there are other considerations, too. Here are just a few:
- According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “there have been at least 700 cases of hateful harassment or intimidation since the election.”
- Maybe millennials with college degrees really are having trouble finding full-time employment with benefits, which seems to be the case with a lot of my friends, though I too often hear stories of Baby Boomers who found employment opportunities with just a high school degree.
- Police brutality, drug policies, and mass incarceration continue to disproportionately affect Black people.
- The immigration system is broken. We are benefiting from undocumented immigrants’ cheap labor and have less of an incentive to push immigration reform through.
- Cutting family planning services and reducing access to birth control will almost certainly lead to an increase in abortions–safe or not–under a Trump presidency. I include this because many people are justifying a Trump vote because they are pro-life, and it really isn’t that simple.
- A Republican House, Senate, Presidency, the likelihood of conservative Supreme Court seats, conservative state governments, etc. have all but undermined our system of checks and balances.
- The Electoral College.
- The public education system is failing, not because of bad teachers, but because of bad funding policies.
White people benefit from all of this, and it’s not just because of economics. And it is certainly not because we think we work harder. Even when we feel the effects of negative events–the economy crashes, etc., we still benefit more and are disadvantaged less than our non-white peers.
The protesters are not lazy. They are not making things up. They are afraid, and they have reason to be.
When I hear middle-aged, white Protestants calling the protesters “lazy crybabies,” I wonder if this could have all been avoided if they had just sat down with people who are not like them in the first place, just to listen. Where would Jesus be? In his house, name-calling from his key board? Or out on the streets, trying to understand and love on the people who are broken?
If you are not hurting right now, and you are ready to move on, that’s great. I don’t wish you to be in pain. But the protests won’t stop, the anger and fear won’t stop, and the healing won’t start until you stop gas-lighting and name-calling people who are trying to tell you what they need.
You voted for someone who called for a Muslim registry, has advocated for an end to same-sex marriage, has been accused of sexual assault, who would cut funding for women’s healthcare, who made fun of someone who is differently-abled, who believes Mexicans are drug-dealers and rapists, who hasn’t paid taxes, who has been accused of fraud, who has acted like a bully and not like a leader, and–for Heaven’s sake–has not read up on the issues that are important to the American people. You voted for a bigot. And now people are afraid. That is the consequence of bigotry.
It is time that we, as white people, sit down, shut up, and listen to everybody else.
But what do I know? I’m just a millennial who is “lazy” and should go “get a job”–even though I already have one.
GMF US-2, Class of 2015-2017
Cutler Bay, FL