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Introduction, Workshop 4: Whiteness and Privilege

In "Building the World We Dream About," a Tapestry of Faith program

The struggle for racial justice in America calls those of us who are White to make this journey. Our presence is needed. We have been absent too long. — Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, from Soul Work: Anti-racist Theologies in Dialogue, Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley and Nancy Palmer Jones, editors (Boston: Skinner House, 2003)

This workshop addresses "White privilege," the idea that there exists a system of racial preferences automatically awarded to people who are perceived as White or of European ancestry, while at the same time there is a system of systematic disadvantages for People of Color and other people marginalized by race or ethnicity.

Some participants may feel discomfort examining White privilege. Becoming aware of the reality of White privilege, or unearned advantage rooted in racism and White identity, often triggers anger, shame, denial, and resistance, especially for those who identify as White or of European descent. It is important to keep in mind that race-based privilege is not necessarily sought nor enjoyed by those who are its beneficiaries. At the same time, it is impossible to understand or, indeed, transform racial or other identity-based exclusion, inequity, or oppression without addressing privilege. Understanding White privilege is foundational to understanding how racism operates to provide unearned advantage to people who identify as White or of European ancestry at the expense of People of Color and other people marginalized by race or ethnicity. Such understanding is necessary to develop the capacity, skills, and motivation to take action to dismantle barriers so that all people "matter" in our congregations, in our organizations, and in our society.

Activity 2 introduces "aesthetic journaling" as a learning strategy to enable participants to go beyond surface dialogue about Whiteness and White privilege. While participants who are visually oriented may be very receptive to this exercise, be ready to encourage those who generally resist art projects to take this opportunity to explore Whiteness using a new lens. To allay concerns about a perceived inability to "do" art, emphasize that this activity's purpose is to engage people with a variety of learning and communication styles; creating art for art's sake is neither a purpose nor a goal.

You may need some time to gather the materials for aesthetic journaling. Begin early and enlist help from others, including workshop participants.

In Activity 3, participants explore strategies for dismantling systems of privilege and oppression by enacting and discussing real-life situations experienced by Unitarian Universalist young adults. For this activity, participants return to the reflection groups you established in Workshop 3.

Before leading this workshop, review the accessibility guidelines in the program Introduction under Integrating All Participants.

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This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Friday, July 20, 2012.

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