Shirley Chisholm, the first Black U.S. congresswoman, said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
Throughout his ministry, Jesus noticed who wasn’t at the table. And he often told meal stories to make his point.
Privilege numbs us to exclusion, such that one of the guests in today’s parable can unironically say, “Blessed is the one who will dine in the Kingdom.” We do the same today when we extol liberty and justice for all when “all” means the privileged few. Pope Francis says that when we “empty great words of their meaning [and] manipulate them,” we “weaken historical consciousness, critical thinking, and the struggle for justice” (On Fraternity and Social Friendship, 14).
The danger of privilege is that we can tell ourselves we’ve opened our tables when we really haven’t. We’ve changed some rules; we’ve donated to some charities; we’ve stopped telling some jokes. But these things are not nearly enough. The challenge and opportunity for those of us with privilege is to realize that no matter how much we work to invite others to the table, “still there is room” for more.
Even though I was too young to vote, I remember when Shirley Chisholm ran for president in 1972. Back then, I thought her bid was quixotic. What I know now is that she was changing who gets to sit at the table.
That is the work before all of us. Welcome all to the table.