White Privilege in Verse

Trumpeter Swans, Hudson, WI

Down is Up and up is down

The trumpeter swans
Know nothing of
White privilege
White is what they are
Down under and
Above the down
Except for beaks
As black as ebony
on ivory

Their voice is not
the honk of pride
and privilege
Pens and cobs
Teach their young
The Beatitudes
Where Up is really
Down and Down is
Up without a down-
Ward sneer at
Loons or Redwing

Ebony and ivory
Nesting in a wetland
Marsh where no
Manicured lawns 
And Scotts-fed 
Greens feed faux-
White privilege.
- GCS, May, 2021
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to  him, and he began to teach them.

He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
 Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled. 
 Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
 Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
 Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

-- Gospel According to Matthew 5:1-10 NIV
Rush Limbaugh receiving Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2020.
Rush Limbaugh receiving Presidential Medal of Freedom honoring people who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors” — State of the Union, 2020.

Gordon C. Stewart, public theologian, author of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (2017 Wipf and Stock), Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, March 3, 2022.

5 thoughts on “White Privilege in Verse

  1. Effective combo, your poem and the Gospel of Matthew. There is no denying the fact that because I was born white I received a built-in advantage; an easier path through life. I don’t like the word “privilege” because it has that look-down-your-nose-at-others connotation but privilege is what it is, defined by my dictionary in part as “A right or advantage gained by birth.” So, like the swans, my skin color, and that of the rest of the white population, is what it is, and should be only that. Color. Not inherently better than the loons or blackbirds. Not some generational basis for discrimination. I find I need the words of Matthew 5:1-10 these days as problems in our minority communities sometimes make me stop thinking and begin wondering “What’s wrong with these people?” Considering what those very communities of color deal with every day, I’ll bet they are asking the same question of us whites.


  2. Beautifully said – both poem and the painful but true reminders of the privilege that belongs to the white world – including us.


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