As I respond to the depth of human grief and strength in this song, I think about my own longing to express myself. Is it my New England/white/puritan culture that puts expressiveness in a straight jacket?

Too much "expression" of anything could cause shame. Especially anything sexual. With so much judging I never felt entirely safe or good in my own skin. 

I did experience love in my family, and a deep interest in language, practicality, the natural world and the moral universe. There was also an implied superiority over (in this order): Catholics; blacks; Jews and other non-Christians; and less educated (improper) white people. 

Power was expressed differently WITHIN my family: my father's power in public leadership, while my mother's was exercised behind the scenes through silence, hard work and the strength of her ambition.

The tough white girls in town scared me, but also made me jealous. They could curse authentically, and would have been able to beat me up. I wanted them to like me, but being nice couldn't overcome different backgrounds. I was a "goody-goody" no matter how much I swore.

The contradictions between universal "brotherhood" and being an "American" of a my class and race caused guilt about my "good fortune", as well as fear of losing it.

Over time I keep trying to unpack my history and identities, still afraid (despite my privileges) of not belonging. 

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Dear Barbara--

I empathize with your writing here.  But I find myself asking you (in my head) several questions:

What quality did the tough white girls have that you most wanted in yourself?

To what/whom do you most want to "belong" nowadays?

Have you now, as an adult, developed and expressed that quality you envied in the tough white girls?

Barbara,
I think your posting is very much expressing yourself.  And, while I do see your cultural background, I wonder if that is really a straight jacket for you any longer.  We all speak in and through a cultural context, which has a lot to do with who we are, but we look beyond that when we express ourselves.  It seems to me that was what you were doing in your note.  
Dorsey had his own cultural background, but "Precious Lord" was the result of an extraordinarily personal experience that transcended himself or anything in his background.  He tells about how the song wrote itself; that it was given to him by God, the source of all being.  That can happen to anyone anywhere.  Dorsey was the vessel of the divine and his words are so powerful because they are universal. 
John Newton, a slave ship's captain, was also God's vessel when he wrote the words that became the song "Amazing Grace."  Like Dorsey's song, Newton's song became a song for all peoples; both touch on what it is universal in the human condition.  Interestingly, both songs have multicultural influences.  The melody for "Precious Lord" was written in the 19th century by a white music teacher at Oberlin College.  The melody for "Amazing Grace" was derived from a West African sorrow chant.      
All of us have the privilege of being alive.  All of us also have the right to be alive.  Everyone is included in that, including both the oppressed and the oppressor.  The is why we say every person has inherent worth and dignity.  That includes you, Mr. Dorsey, Mr. Newton, me, and everyone else.  
On other hand, some of us are born into and given more of other forms of privilege.  It is what we do with what we are dealt with that matters.  The only blame, guilt, or shame to be attached to your individual privilege is its misuse by you.  One way to do that is to allow yourself become your own oppressor.  We all have done that at times, but it is tendency we need to purge from ourselves.         
John
    

Notes -- with lyrics.

Thanks Jill, It's lovely to have that.

Barbara, thank you for this sincere, authentic post. It ain't easy to be so honest about these things. I see myself in aspects of what you recall. Taking risks and doing what you think is right is part of a journey.  I've learned not to be insecure about how others might react to me. But I've also learned to listen carefully for context and meaning to feedback as a way to grow and to keep an open mind to resistance, the meaning of which is often several layers deeper than how the giver groped to find  words. Our emotions often keep us for turning confrontation and disagreement into opportunities for growth that can be put into deeds sooner rather than later.

Barbara,

I'm holding you in my heart.

I certainly identify with your words here. My growing up was somewhat different in that my family was dysfunctional and that, more than anything, was what I identified with. My understanding that I could be privileged even as I was hurting came much later.

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