Monthly Archives: May 2014

White Privilege

A colleague asked me a question on “white privilege”. This is my response.

Let me start from the beginning. The term “white privilege” comes from critical race theory that white people hold special privileges implicitly. It implies Black people would never receive such privilege. I am not any expert in race theory or sociology. I only heard about this idea though my own readings. My only encounter with sociology was the only course I took close to thirty years ago called “Sociology in Education”.

Let me first define the term “theory”. The term “theory” is defined very differently in natural sciences such as in physics, chemistry, and biology than in social sciences as in sociology, arts, education, anthropology, and political science.

“Theory” in science is NOT an opinion. For natural sciences, a set of observations has to be documented. Then a hypothesis or a group of hypothesis is formed based on the results of the observations. The hypothesis is repeatedly tested in controlled experiments to verify whether the results could be reproduced. Data from those repeated experiments are then analyzed using mathematical or statistical methods. The hypothesis then has to be modified, accepted or rejected. The experiments have to be performed to justify and make further predictions until there are no discrepancies between observation results. Even after these strenuous exercises, the hypothesis must be continuous testable and falsifiable. Deductive reasoning is used, not inductive reasoning. All data must have both independent and dependent variables. The results must include an experimental group and control group so the conclusion is based on identifiable comparison.

It is very difficult or even impossible to “prove” a theory in natural science. Sometimes we call some natural phenomena “laws” such as “law of gravity”, “Newton’s law of motion”, “law of thermodynamics”, etc. because they are so predictable. Even some of these “laws of physics” have been modified.

In this definition, how we commonly  use the term “theory” describes an opinion or observation is not correct. That is why I do not consider “Creation Science” is a scientific theory. “Creation Science” is not repeatable, testable, falsifiable, or predictable, therefore, it is not science.

In the area of sociology, “critical race theory” cannot be classified as a scientific theory. There may be observations that race plays an important role in how a society treats its own citizens. We can use statistics to show that blacks are twice as likely to be convicted in the courts. Blacks as a group has a lower median income compare with whites, etc… We cannot, however, (and should not) set up any experiments to test our hypothesis. No one can even suggest we can test this observation by setting up an experimental group whom we should deliberately discriminate the members of that group and another control group that we treat all the members with respect. Then we measure their income level and crime rate after a number of years. Such experiment would be unethical and immoral. We can, however, look at statistics from established societies and their cultural characteristics to form an informed opinion to our observation. Then we can investigate our own underlining of attitudes and modify our behaviour and practice.

Back to the question of “white privilege”, we have to ask a few questions. First, does it exist? Second, if it does exist, does it exist in all cultures? Third, in what form does it exist? Fourth, what are the historical and cultural aspects do “white privilege” be manifested? Finally, how can we make sure that we would not abuse this privilege if we do indeed process such privilege?

We do not have the “privilege” to choose our parents, race, and place of birth. We are born the way we are. Out of all cosmic possibilities, we are here! It is not our choice. If you believe in the God in the Bible, you may claim that God put you here on this earth at this time for a reason. It is up to you to find out His will for you on this earth. If you are a Buddhist, being a white male is the result of all your past lives now living in this reincarnated form.

If you consider being born white, Catholic, male… as a privilege, then you just won the lottery of the uterus. Better still, you do not even have to pay for the lottery ticket. Yes, you are privileged just because you are living in a country where we are free to think and form you own opinion. You, as a white male, have a better chance of getting a mortgage or credit card in this society. This is the “privilege” that you cannot even give up if you wanted to. The important thing is not to abuse this “privilege”. Use this “privilege” so the whole society can benefit.

Since you are a person of the Catholic faith, I give you a quote from the Bible. in Philippians 2: 3 – 4,

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

If you take time to read the whole chapter 2 of Philippians, I do not think Apostle Paul, a Jewish male with Roman citizenship, a privilege class in its days, is not talking about charity. He is talking about how to live out the life of Christ throughout our lives. He regards all his audience, Jews or Gentiles, as equals, brothers and sisters. Like it or not, we are here and we are going to stay. It is more important that we use what we have to serve one another than to argue about who deserves more privileges.

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Babies with Wet Diapers

Very few people in the world like change. The only people who like change are babies with wet diapers.

How true it is. Unknown terrifies us. That may be one of the many reasons people do not like mathematics. Students were always asked to solve for the unknowns.

Changes always come with unknowns.

Changes come more often and in a faster pace. I can still remember the days of command lines when I have to operate any computer. I started with a machine called Nova, then PDP, CDC.

There were Christian apocalyptic books and movies in the 1970’s. Computers were the tools of he anti-Christ. The computer programmers and engineers were portrayed to help the anti-Christ to control the world and performed the work for Satan.

Personal computers arrived in the 70’s. The Commodore PET, Apple II, IBM PC, Macintosh, etc. came and gone.

In the technology world, people embrace change. Change is seemed as the advancement. I surely do not want to use WordPerfect on DOS.

In other parts of out lives, change is a tough bill to swallow.

No one likes rapid changes in our workplace. It may mean lost of employment, lost of income, lost of position or responsibilities.

Change brings a shock to the system.

Most of us are creatures of habits. We try to avoid changes. We pray that changes will come slowly so we can adapt. We know change will come and we want to control the rate of change, the degree of change, and the process of change.

The reality is, change always comes when we are least anticipated. We feel our world is spinning out of control.

Reality check: our world is still spinning the way that it has always been. We just realized that we were living in a bubble that our perceived world was never the reality. The stages of life have always been here. We are just too busy trying to control our bubble that there are other realities outside our control. When the forces of other realities burst our bubble, we are devastated.

This is when and how psychologists and psychiatrists make their living.

Solomon said it so eloquently,

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh, 
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,
 a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,
 a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate, 
a time for war and a time for peace.[1]

 

[1] Ecclesiastes 3:1 – 8


The Centrality of Christ (2)

I stumble upon the writing of Oswald Chambers, (Go to May 6, 2014)

“A spiritually-minded person will never come to you with the demand—”Believe this and that”; a spiritually-minded person will demand that you align your life with the standards of Jesus. We are not asked to believe the Bible, but to believe the One whom the Bible reveals (see John 5:39-40). We are called to present liberty for the conscience of others, not to bring them liberty for their thoughts and opinions.”

What an insight! This is what my thought on the centrality of Christ all about. Our interpretation of the Bible, cultural upbringing, political views, doctrinal views… can be all put aside if we can focus on Christ and Christ alone. The Bible is a record of God’s interaction with the human race. It can never represent God and all His being. Even the Bible admitted that. (John 21: 25)

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