Complicating "White Privilege"
Class, Race and Images of Wilma

Gorski, Paul C.
http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/12/30/complicating-white-privilege/

Publisher:  CounterPunch
Date Written:  30/12/2011
Year Published:  2011  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX13986

The most heavy-handedly enforced rule, and the one we, in the white privilege brigade, still seem determined to protect with the greatest earnestness, dictates that Nobody shall, during a conversation about white privilege, mention any identity that is not a racial identity or any oppression that is not racism. To my knowledge, there is no official rulebook governing conversations about white privilege. If such a rulebook did exist, though, I am sure that this rule would be printed in bold italics.

Abstract: 
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Excerpt:

I dove into the white privilege discourse as part of my training as an anti-racism educator in the mid-1990s, just a few years after my white educator peers had started shuffling through their knapsacks. The shuffling often occurred back then, as it does today, in white caucus groups, organized dialogues among white educators. During these dialogues we more or less took turns pouring the contents of our knapsacks onto the floor before encouraging each other to "own" whatever came out, taking responsibility for racism. Rarely did we get around to talking about what it meant to be an anti-racist or for racial justice. Rarely did we use those dialogues to grow ourselves into more powerful change agents. This, I think, persists as a problem in white caucusing and other forms of race dialogues today: too much conversation about how hard it is to be a white person taking responsibility for white privilege; way too much thinking that the dialogue, itself, is the anti-racism rather than what prepares us for the anti-racism.

However, looking back now, having observed how conversations about social justice education have evolved in the past 20 years, what stands out to me most about those early conversations about "white privilege" is this: Even then, in those few years after that phrase, "white privilege," had entered white people's "diversity" lexicon, the rules of the conversation already had been established, and firmly so.
Many were the standard "be respectful" rules, some of which -- "speak from personal experience" or "use I statements," for instance, which could limit participants' opportunities to speak to systemic racism -- actually, as far as I could tell, privileged White people in conversations about white privilege.

The most heavy-handedly enforced rule, and the one we, in the white privilege brigade, still seem determined to protect with the greatest earnestness, dictates that Nobody shall, during a conversation about white privilege, mention any identity that is not a racial identity or any oppression that is not racism. To my knowledge, there is no official rulebook governing conversations about white privilege. If such a rulebook did exist, though, I am sure that this rule would be printed in bold italics.

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