To consider "Whiteness" . . . is not an attack on people, whatever their skin color. Instead, [it] is an attempt to think critically about how white skin preference has operated systematically, structurally, and sometimes unconsciously as a dominant force in American—and indeed in global society and culture. — Dr. Gregory Jay, contemporary author and educator

This workshop explores what we mean when we talk about culture, or race, or identity. It presents information about racial and ethnic identity formation for white people and for people of color. It invites participants to consider the messages they receive from the dominant culture, and introduces the concept of "white identity," which is likely a new concept for some. The readings, activities, and discussions in this workshop may well lead to emotional reactions, such as defensiveness, guilt, or shame, from participants, particularly participants who identify as White or of European ancestry. Some participants may emphasize that being "color blind"—behaving as if race does not matter—is the solution to racism. Others may use ethnic identity such as being Irish, Italian-, or Polish American, to separate themselves from the burden of White identity. Invite and encourage participants to consider the ways in which White identity is imposed by the larger society. Ask: How do White identity, and the messages we tend to get from our culture about what is "normal" or "good," affect even White people who do not think of themselves as White?

Participants work in two different kinds of small groups in this workshop. In Activity 1, they divide into groups based on their experiences in young adult settings. Activity 4 presents the first instance of meeting in intentionally diverse reflection groups assigned by the facilitators, groups that will meet several times more in the course of the program. Follow the instructions in the program Introduction for creating diverse reflection groups before the workshop begins.

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


This workshop will:

  • Define "culture," "race," and "ethnicity"
  • Consider the influence of U.S. culture on identity development
  • Introduce the concepts of White identity and "Whiteness"
  • Present a model identifying stages of racial and ethnic identity formation for White people and People of Color
  • Provide a variety of activities and conversations that deepen participants' understanding of Whiteness and its impact on their day-to-day lives.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Consider definitions of "culture," "race," and "identity"
  • Discuss the influence of U.S. culture on identity development
  • Explore a model of four stages of racial and ethnic identity formation, and test that model against their own experiences
  • Explore Whiteness and White identity
  • Understand how Whiteness is normalized in their day-to-day lives and in the culture at large.