2. Introduction

Introduction and Overview of Session/Module 2

Learning Objectives:

Upon completing this session, you will:

  • Understand areas of your life where you are advantaged because of your skin color.
  • Understand white privilege in the context of systemic racism.
  • Make personal decisions and commitments about what you will do with this privilege.

On any given day, in any given place in the United States, a person is less likely to be stopped and accused of committing a crime – whether they have committed one or not – if he or she belongs to a group that has historically been defined as white for a sufficient period of time in the United States. People defined as white are also are dramatically more likely to have benefits in terms of home ownership, access to quality education and an inheritance based on previous generations’ access to those privileges of whiteness. Almost no one – white or person of color—is individually asking to be privileged or oppressed. At the same time, understanding white privilege in the context of systemic racism and doing nothing about it constitutes colluding in exactly the way the system was set up to work.

As Linda Faye Williams notes in The Constraint of Race: Legacies of White Skin Privilege in America,”little or none of white privilege is maintained by blatant racists; rather institutional and structural mechanisms and public policy maintain it, both materially and psychologically. Moreover, white privilege is shared by all whites, affluent and poor, albeit to varying degrees…white skin privilege is usually less a matter of direct, referential, and snarling contempt than a system of protecting the privileges of whites by denying people of color opportunities for asset accumulation and upward mobility.”*


  • Readings

Differentiating Privileges from Benefits from SURJ 

Retaining Benefits, Avoiding Responsibility by Paul Kivel

  • Video

Cracking the Codes: J. Elena Featherston on Privilege

  • Activity

Understanding the Benefits of Being White and Reflection Questions

  • Commitment to Action

Closing thoughts and personal goal setting

Supplemental Readings

Copied from The Racial Equity Tools section on Whiteness and White Privilege

How to Talk to About  Privilege to Someone Who Doesn’t Know What That Is

White Power and Privilege

On Racism and White Privilege

Introduction | Readings | Activity | Committment