This section is intended for folks who identify as white. If you identify as a member of the global majority, please skip ahead to For People of Color.
As Beverly Daniel Tatum explains in the article you read in the previous section, the task of understanding the intersection of our many identities is a complex one. The identity of whiteness is particularly difficult to grapple with, because it does not have a particular ethnicity and cultural history associated with it, given that it was constructed here in the United States and in other European countries over the past several hundred years. The story of how this identity was created is beyond the purview of this Study Guide, and there are excellent recent resources to help you learn more. What’s important for our purposes is that we grapple with how growing up white influences our worldview and behaviors. In other words, although race is a social construct, the impact of racism is real.
This short reflection from Peggy McIntosh, “White Privilege – Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” (PDF), has become a classic for those engaged in anti-racism work. Regardless of whether you have encountered this material before or not, we invite you to engage it once more. Read this article, or view the video below, and answer the questions offered below in your journal.
Our experiences of where we each live in relation to race, class, privilege, and power shape our attitudes and perspectives. We must be mindful of our own biases, and work to transcend them, to successfully enter into another culture with norms that might be different from our own.
In preparation for this experience, we invite you to reflect upon, journal about, and possibly even discuss several of the following questions with another person. We encourage you to pick at least one that inspires your curiosity, and one that makes you feel defensive. We also encourage you to pick another question or two that you’ve thought about in the past, and re-visit to see how it has shifted for you.
- When did you first realize you were white?
- When did you first become aware of your privilege as a white person? How did you feel?
- What do you find most challenging when discussing white privilege with other white folks?
- What triggers your awareness of your white privilege? When do you notice it? What happens when you notice it?
- Why do you think it’s challenging for white people to think about/do something about white privilege?
- What is the cost of white privilege for white people? What is the cost of white privilege for people of color?
- How might your white privilege play out in your upcoming journey?
- What is the relationship between your spiritual practice and your white privilege? How does your spiritual practice sustain your anti-racism work?
Take a Break
For a lighter take on the topic of identity, watch this video entitled “What Kind of Asian Are You?”
Produced for YouTube’s Comedy Week, this video provides a tongue-in-cheek look at cross- cultural learning. While some will see this as exaggerated, others may feel that this portrayal reflects actual, everyday occurrences.