Addressing White Power and Priviledge

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Addressing White Power and Privilege

by Sr. Brenda Walsh, Racine Dominican

In recent times, part of the effort to address racism in our society centers around the issue of white power and privilege. We are part of a culture of privilege that Allan G. Johnson, Ph.D, describes well in his book entitled "Privilege, Power and Difference." The book has been selected as one that many individuals and groups in our Racine community are invited to study and share. It recognizes that white people often carry unearned benefits, simply based on the color of their skin. There is a hidden belief that white people are more competent, capable, intelligent and reliable than people of color. White cultural values are seen as normal. We need to recognize this cultural trend and then work to change it.

We recall the many ways we are blessed with a good education, preparation for employment and opportunities to have many connections locally, nationally and globally. As we grow in our awareness, we are reminded that power and privilege are never for ourselves alone. When we work with struggling and powerless people, we must remember it is their goals, their hopes that we are helping to accomplish and not our own. We are called to help the people we serve to clarify and name their own hopes and also to help them accomplish them and celebrate their success.

Recently the Editor of "Fellowship of Reconciliation" gave us permission to share some ideas garnered from Liz Walz’s experience in anti-racism training. The article appeared in the Winter 2008 issue of "Fellowship of Reconciliation" (winter 2008

Here are the suggestions:

  • Learn. Make a commitment to receive ongoing training to learn about internalized white superiority and to support organizational transformation.
  • Reflect: Keep a journal. Pain, anger, fear are part of this journey and part of being human. Observing yourself and your reactions without judgment will increase your internal freedom and capacity to engage in action.
  • Relate. Go to events organized by people of color which are open to all. Take time to visit with people while you are there.
  • Support. Join or form a support and action group that bring people together for ongoing sharing, role playing and planning.
  • Act. Incorporate actions accountable to people of color into your existing activist work – organize within your peace group or faith community to direct some amount of the energy toward struggles for jobs, healthcare, prison and legal-systems reform and current local issues as they arise.
  • Contribute to campaigns that work for racial justice such as the NAACP.
  • Learn. Listen to radio stations which feature black, Asian Pacific Islanders and Latino/Hispanic programming. Recognize the variety of differing experiences of persons of color born in America.
  • Learn. Become familiar with the history of American racism and how it is still playing out in New Orleans.

(When you use these suggestions, please give credit to the author listed above.)

The question before us is "Can we create an inclusive, pluralistic society for the good of all?" We need to realize that rules and laws that were created by humans can also be changed by humans. We must also remember that the groups that have power and control cannot be the only ones to benefit from the systems. It will take a consistent effort to use the gifts and perspectives of all people and allow all to benefit from decisions made. How much do we care about the quality of our lives together? The US Bishops Pastoral on Racism offers this motivation: "There must be no turning back along the road of justice, no sighing for bygone times of privilege, no nostalgia for simple solutions from another age. For we are children of the age to come, when the first shall be last and the last first, when blessed are they who serve the Lord in all his brother and sisters, especially those who are poor and suffer injustice. Another world is possible. Let us continue to work for racial just in all spheres of life.

Justice Preaching Archive

Just click on a title below to read the article.
- The latest titles are listed first. -

• Justice Bulletin Board •
• A New Year •
• Two Essays on Peace •
• A Call To Respect and Welcome Diversity - A Challenge of Our Faith •
• Addressing White Power and Priviledge •
• An Ethical Reflection on Work... •
• A Re-energized Catholic Church •
• A Renewed Call for Nuclear Disarmament •
• Called to Proclaim and Live With Moral Courage •
• Called To Protect the Poor In Our Economic System •
• Call To Persevere In Praying and Working for Peace •
• Care For the Environment •
• Care for the Earth •
• Caritas in Veritate •
• The Challenge of Discipleship •
• Comprehensive Immigration Reform •
• The Death Penalty Revisited •
• What Is Ecological Economics •
• Eliminating Global Poverty •
• Global Warming... Calling for an Urgent and Ethical Response •
• God's Fool •
• Green Congretations - A Growing Movement •
• More Gun Control •
• Healing the Racial Divide •
• Speaking the Truth in Today's World Takes Courage •
• Justice and Compassion •
• Labor Issues and the Catholic Church •
• Is More Consumer Spending the Answer? •
• Moving from A Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace •
• Preaching Justice & Moving from Violence to Peace •
• Reaching For the Stars - Brenda Walsh •
• A Call To Reduce Prison Population •
• The Relationship Between Labor And the Catholic Church •
• Sermon On Domestic Violence •
• Sustainability •
• The Death Penalty •
• The New Economy Movement •
• The Role of Ethical Standards... •
• War Is Not the Answer •
• Witnesses To Hope •

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