OK, I have white privelge - now what?

At our debrief of the privilege activity at TLF, there was a discussion (@BenDrewelow, @MikeSmart, @jpmillard, @RobSchoch) about how to interact with someone who is reeling back from the first encounter with privileges that have been invisible to them in their lives. I have been very grateful for the explanations provided in this piece:

5 Helpful Answers To Society’s Most Uncomfortable Questions
note: course language, nsfw?

Also, the buzzfeed video on the privilege walk that got mentioned


There are a few things I’d point people to as well.
This article is one: http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/why-i-dont-talk-about-race-white-people

Also, talking about White Fragility or at least be ready for it can sometimes be helpful.

Here’s a Teaching Tolerance lesson on white privilege in case that is helpful: http://www.tolerance.org/article/racism-and-white-privilege


I came across this piece this weekend - I found it a very powerful list of how one person has been affected by racism. I suppose someone who is determined to keep their head in the sand is going to look at it and think “So what? Everyone’s been treated unfairly in some way - you turned out fine, so quit whining about it.” But I think for anyone who is actually open to understanding what white privilege is, they could get it from this description.

Articles like that might be a good start with the person who is resistant to the idea that things are just flat out easier for them. I would add that anyone that receives special consideration because of white fragility has a special kind of privilege that many don’t enjoy.

We could also look at those determined to ignore it as laggards and ignore them because they will only come along once they have no other choice. Just like with any other innovation, we should focus efforts on the willing and draw in the early and late majority. Part of what I often suggest in Strategy 2 meetings is to treat this as the adoption of an innovation and focus on it in the same way we might with something like we do with other initiatives like the Innovation Coach project.

I do think there is a the potential to look at these things—for that matter, anything—and conclude that nothing can be done to counter it, which would be self-defeating.

For me, the section in Blindspot that talks about the student who goes to the hospital and gets the best treatment because she’s in the same college was eye-opening. That simple act of kindness occurs all the time with white privilege, and makes our lives so much easier. It made me think how often we’ve come to where we are not because of what we are, but who we know.


There are a few groups in the district reading it now and doing book studies.

That was a hard lesson to learn because I was someone who thought if I just worked hard enough that people would notice. It wasn’t until I forced myself to start making those connections that things started opening up. I think that white people are more likely to have access to making those connections.

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It’s probably more complicated though? I also think part of it is ambition, and that it’s not a either/or kind of thing. You can have widely divergent amounts of access.

Gotcha. I’m reading “For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood” right now…

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I get more and more concerned about the whole ambition/grit/growth mindset thing. Most people won’t believe something that doesn’t match their reality. I was watching a Town Hall with Chris Hayes the other night and it was “Bernie Sanders in Trump Country”. There was one point in the show when a woman in her mid-twenties spoke up and said, there’s nothing in that town for people to do other than drugs. The young people could only think of leaving and many didn’t really have that option. If there aren’t jobs or productive ways to spend your time then there is no hope for ambition.

If we’re telling students to just stick with it and try hard and fill in those gaps and everything will be okay, that’s just not realistic and many of them know it. We should be teaching them to do things that many of us don’t have the skills to do. Network; understand office politics and how they affect them; I even think we should be teaching them PEM and IDI skills. Those are the real ways to get ahead beyond just having a diploma.

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Yes, I agree.

I don’t think I was thinking of ambition in a narrow, “try hard” sort of way, but rather the motivation to find a way out of current circumstances. For you, for example, it was the realization that making better connections would open up more opportunities, and your ambition encouraged you to build those relationships.

I think you’re dead on right though, that many kids are in environments where opportunities are extraordinarily rare, and some much of what surrounds kids makes it so unlikely that they’ll end up somewhere positive. Grit and effort and growth mindset will get you little if you don’t have possibilities to act on.

And while certainly effort and grit play a role, I totally agree with you that they should never be default panacea we give to people. In coaching, for example, I’ve always believed that if you best answer to a team’s weak performance is to tell the kids to “work harder,” you’re a pretty crappy coach.

Likewise, as much as I like grit and growth mindset, I fear that educators can use “grit” as a cop out for weak instruction. Give a kid a boring, meaningless exercise, then when they rebel and struggle to stay focused, tell them that they need to build grit. :confounded:

@HLeslieGrebe - Could you let me know what you think of the book? I might like to read it, if you think it’s worth it.

Cool short films on race from the NY Times for talking with students:

Those are good. We try to share them on http://equity.district287.org