White privilege and what can white people do?

One of the questions many white people are asking these days is what can we do to combat racism? What steps can we take to understand and change systems? Yesterday Bishop Gene Robinson spoke about listening. Here are 2 other authors offering their views:

Rage Against the MiniVan blog:

White privileged (sic) is a difficult concept. It can cause a lot of confusion and defensiveness. In the diversity class I teach to graduate students, this topic is more heated than any other topic we touch on. Similarly, this week I’ve seen people pushing back against the idea of white privilege as if it’s an indictment that they are a racist (it’s not.) I even watched a blogger (who is white) criticize my friend Kelly (who is black) for her suggestion that people confront their white privilege. The blogger suggested that Kelly called white people “white supremacists” . . . as if “white privilege” and “white supremacists” were interchangeable terms (they’re not.) Confusion abounds when we talk about white privilege, and I think it’s confusion that often leads to offense at the term.

Simply put, privilege refers to an unearned advantage. It usually refers to something inherent . . . something you were born with rather than something you worked for. There are many types of privilege: economic privilege, gender privilege, heterosexual privilege, and of course . . . racial privilege.

Here are some of the questions I often hear asked about white privilege:

I had a hard time growing up, too. We’ve all had hardships.

I have a black friend who was raised with way more privilege so how can I be the privileged one?

What do they want me to do?

Am I supposed to feel guilt for stuff I didn’t do?

To learn more about white privilege, I really recommend reading this insightful checklist from Peggy McIntosh about “Unpacking the Invisible Backpack”.

Read more at the blog.

Mia McKenzie writing at Black Girl Dangerous says:

Racism is, in reality, a huge, systemic, deeply-rooted plague that exists everywhere and affects everything, that degrades and starves and rapes and murders people without losing its breath. It is built on hundreds of years of oppression and genocide. It is in our government, in our entertainment, in our literature, in our corporations, in our language. This entire country was built on it. It is everywhere, and it is insidious and subtle just as often as it is open and obvious. It is not that crazy dude over there.

I see the appeal to white folks in thinking about racism this way. The “whack job” approach allows people to separate racist thinking and behavior from themselves. It’s that crazy screaming dude over there who’s racist. It’s your drunk uncles. It’s your he-was-so-quiet-and-seemed-so-normal-before-he-walked-into-the-mall-and-started-shooting-people neighbors. All of whom you can shake your heads at with furrowed brows while proclaiming that you’re “not like that.” But you are. White people, you need to get this: you are racist. The first step is admitting that you are part of the problem.

I am not going to tell you why or how you are racist. I’m not here for your education. If you want to understand, read a book. Read a hundred books. Take a workshop. Read as many books and take as many workshops as you need to be able to stop pretending it’s other white people and not you.

The Episcopal Church offers anti-racism training now focusing on our ministries (lay and ordained) in a diverse world. Ask your diocese to put on a training near you. Here is the info from the Diocese of Oregon’s Diverse Church Training: Course I: Foundations for Faithful Ministry in a Diverse World

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