BECOMING MORE AWARE OF OUR POWER AND PRIVILEGE
One of the key things we think is important is how unaware we are of our white power and privilege. It is just so much a part of our live we don’t even have to think about it. People of Color know us, in many ways, far better than we know ourselves. Generally they are fully aware of our white privilege and power, and of our denial of that we have this privilege and power. We can learn a lot from People of Color about our white power and privilege.
WE HAVE PRIVILEGE BECAUSE WE HAVE POWER
White power and privilege are inextricably tied together. We receive so much white privilege because we have access to so much power in our society.
THE SYSTEM AUTOMATICALLY PROVIDES PRIVILEGE AND POWER TO THOSE OF US WHO ARE WHITE
We need to be aware of the fact that the institutions of our society are designed to automatically provide and preserve white power and privilege. We don’t have to ask for it, it is automatically given to us. Peggy McIntosh says that those of us who are white are born with a knapsack which contains all kinds of goodies including educational opportunities, credit cards, blank checks, passports and so on. The reality of the invisible knapsack is that if you are white you can’t take it off. It will be there until the day you die or the day systemic racism is ended. You can’t simply say, “I am not going to be privileged anymore.” As long as the institutions are designed this way, they will give you privileges whether you want them or not. So it is not a matter of choosing whether or not to be a part of a racist system that benefits all white people. If you are white, power and privilege is given to you whether you want it or not.
A PART OF US LIKES HAVING WHITE POWER AND PRIVILEGE
But there is another level of this that we would ask us as white people to take a look at today. Consciously or unconsciously we accept this special treatment. I know there is a part of me that does. There is a part of us that loves our white power and privilege. Otherwise there would be a lot more effort to end it.
THE NEED FOR NEW DISCIPLINES
With all these factors in mind, we hope those of us who are white will realize that we need to discipline ourselves to see the world through a new lens. Some of you have become aware – through doing this exercise- of how difficult it is for us who are white to be aware of our white power and privilege. We need to practice and become disciplined in developing this awareness.
At first, it is only when we are with people of color that we can see and feel the difference in the ways we are treated. But hopefully, over time, we will reach a point we become instinctively aware of how the system is working on our behalf and how we receive undue power and privilege in our system by virtue of our skin color even when people of color are not present. More than this we hope we will see the importance of using the privilege that we have to make change and to actually dismantle the systems that provide those of us who are white with undue power and privilege. Again, the issue is not whether we have great privilege because of our whiteness. The issue is how we will use the privilege of whiteness to work for justice. We will have more to say about this when we discuss how to develop a positive white identity.
Commitment to action – what will you do as a result of what you learned in this workshop before we next meet two months from now?
*Please complete the Module 2 Evaluation whether you attended the session, just read the materials, or both.