I Am: A Reflection on Identity, Privilege, and Responsibility

In Knowing Who I Am

By birth,

I am human.

I am a member of the species Homo sapiens, the most advanced of over eight million species on earth. The species with the most developed pre-frontal cortex, allowing the greatest freedom of choice, and with linguistic adaptability that allows development of complex language. Live birth; opposable thumbs; upright bipedal mobility; and more.

I am male.

I have an X and Y chromosome that is characteristic of approximately one-half of the human species. Historically understood as the larger and stronger gender, that generally tends to exhibit more aggressive behavior while often promoting societal structures to ensure dominance and oppression of others. Testosterone dominant; procreation inseminator; menstruation free; and more.

I am White.

I am Caucasian, Caucasoid, or Europid, depending on the racial classification with which one identifies. According to the oral family history from my parents, my personal ancestral research, and DNA testing by Ancestory.com, I am of Swedish, Irish, and northern European heritage. Light brown hair; baby blue eyes; fair freckled skin; and more.

I am tall.

I experience the world from a slightly higher vantage point than most. Throughout my life, I have been largely defined by my tall physical stature, a characteristic decisively situated on the nature side of the great debate[1]. I have purchased clothes from a special rack; almost impossible to blend-in; athletically advantaged; and more.

I am American.

Yet I am not as the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. I am a citizen of a construct defined by the Constitution of the United States of America, conceived and enacted by an assembly of European immigrant men for a defined geographic region within nature’s earth. Naturalized citizen; civil liberties guaranteed; unprecedented opportunity; and more.

I am a Citizen of the World.

I was born one of almost three billion. Today the number of fellow citizens approaches eight billion. Within this amazing universe in which I live, it is my global citizenship that most precisely defines my primary community. I join my fellow citizens as they experience joy and sadness; love and hate; fear and comfort; and more.

By choice,

I am a Person of Faith.

I recognize that human knowledge is limited and am not ashamed or afraid to embrace meanings based on faith. All the while, I do not ascribe to faith that is a pseudo-empirical understanding based on a private conversation with the Divine. I am one who understands that faith and knowledge are antithetical and that humans have far less knowledge than is claimed. I am one who believes that faith is essential for all humans as a means of pursuing a higher order.

I am a Christian.

I embrace a faith that helps negotiate the uncertainties of life, while engaging it in a positive, procreative manner. My faith is guided by the teachings of Christ, as reflected in His beatitudes, not ones that brandish Holy scripture as a weapon to judge, shame, exclude, or kill. It is a Christian faith that views the sacred Christian canon in context of Christ, not one in which Christ is interpreted in context of Old Testament Law or the Pauline Epistles.

I am an Educator.

I believe that the future of the present world, and the world yet to be inhabited, is intricately tied to the education of human youth. I am one who acknowledges the triune nature of humans as body, mind, and spirit and who believes that education is morally superior to, and distinctly different from, indoctrination. I am one who believes that all humans are capable of learning and that one’s fullest potential is achieved within an ethical framework of thought and problem solving.

As a Result,

I am comfortable.

I accept this, not in terms of complacency or lacking initiative, but in the basic sense. I have only experienced hunger due to poor planning, lack of appropriate currency to purchase food, or an intentional fast. I live in a comfortable home, considered average in my neighborhood, yet which by global standards borders on ostentatious. I have maintained steady employment, have a loving family, respect from peers, and high levels of intellectual stimulation from academic pursuit. I have enjoyed good health, and although one cannot perfectly forecast future illness or accidents, genetic and health indicators project for me a long and moderately healthy life.

I am grateful.

I have a loving family, opportunities to learn, people that have opened doors of opportunity for me, and good health. I am grateful for the myriad of greetings I have received and the opportunities I’ve had to explore the world. I am grateful to count as friends so many of my fellow citizens within the global community. I am grateful for all good things that I have experienced in my life. And yet, I am conflicted by opportunities resulting from a zero-sum condition. It somehow feels immoral to label as blessings those benefits that are results of the societal oppression of others. For these, I am contrite.

I am privileged.

I have advantages that go far beyond those of most of my fellow global citizens. Privilege is not a dichotomous condition, but rather is multivariate. It is a condition most often defined by variables out of one’s control. These are variables that impact opportunities, from genetic predispositions as well as societal positions into which one is born. Although not possessing high levels on all opportunity and privilege variables, on the continuum of privilege I am very privileged. I was genetically slated with physical stature that provided me with greater athletic opportunities and often engendered more favorable social and professional reception from others. I am privileged to have been born into a family where my fullest intellectual and physical potential could be realized. I also experienced a gestation free of in utero exposure to illicit chemicals or drugs, parental boundaries, appropriate nutrition, good teachers, and caring mentors. I have lived as one who matches the racial and gender profile of the dominant ruling group, in the most prosperous and opportunistic nation in the history of humankind. As such, it would be dishonest, or at best disingenuous, to not acknowledge my privilege.

Therefore,

I am responsible.

My responsibility is entirely proportionate with my privilege. If I accept the notion that “from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded,” then I have no choice but to accept my responsibility in direct proportion to my privilege. For me to do otherwise would be an expression of arrogance and ungratefulness. It is in my acceptance of this responsibility that my gratefulness is fully manifest and where my arrogance dissipates. Likewise, this responsibility is the result of my consideration of the Kingdom of God, as referenced in scripture. A kingdom that is adversative to the self-centered, greedy, lustful, and controlling attitudes that characterize the worst of the human condition. For when I pray as Christ taught his disciples, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,”responsibility for actions that will advance the Kingdom of God is a natural consequence. It is a responsibility that is sacred, not merely civic. It is one that calls to action and is intentional. It is a responsibility to serve the least of these[2].  Its purpose is to be a voice for the voiceless, to empower the dependent, and to lend strength to the weak. Ultimately, it is a responsibility to do all that I can so that who I am, and who I am meant to be,are one and the same.


[1] Relating to the debate on whether human behavior comes from one being genetically predisposed (nature) or from learned or developed behaviors from one’s upbringing or environmental influences (nurture).

[2] References a teaching ascribed to Jesus Christ in which he defines those for whom his followers must show ultimate compassion, Matthew Chapter 25:31-46.

8 comments

  1. Wonderful! Truthful and thought provoking sentiments. Brings us down to the core of our being.. The differences that set us apart from one another are not as far as we portray in our daily lives.. Thank you Steve …To bad we don’t have someone like you in the Oval Office!

  2. Wonderfully communicated. Helps me reflect on who I am and who I am meant to be. Blessed to be working on a project meaningful to both of us.
    John “Juan”

  3. Intellectual, Insightful, moving, faithful, faith filled, stimulating, and a contemplative use of my time.

    Rarely does anything that I read receive those sentiments.

    Thank you my friend…

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