Thursday, January 20, 2011

Navigating Unearned Privilege


In preparation for this session and being Martin Luther King’s birth weekend, we decided to send by email, before this session, the Letter from the Birmingham Jail, which he wrote in 1963.  This brilliant and powerful letter is quite relevant to the current discussion of white privilege.  We began our session with a check-in following the song: You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught, from South Pacific.  Then we continued with our modified session six curriculum by showing a video compiled from YouTube videos discussing white privilege.  Using multi-media brought a vibrant energy to our experience together.  We designed the assignment for our activity and asked each group to come up with a short skit supporting the continuation of white privilege.   The reactions to this activity were powerful.  Here is the feedback from this session from the members of the class.

It is too easy to argue for patience.  [Those in power say] “things are changing, just wait, we’re making progress, don’t rock the boat.”  But why should anyone be patient when it is their humanness that is being denied.

A very stimulating and eye popping discussion and realization of the faults that exist, without being aware of the hurt that they cause.

Frustrating, but inspiring.  Makes me realize that we have come a long way.

COMPLICATED.  A useful exercise in introspection, trying to gain insight into the various perspectives to the problem.

I liked the exercise and thought it was thought provoking for the participants.  I wished we’d had some time to discuss the Letter from Birmingham Jail at greater length.  I also liked the video presentation.

This is all like peeling an onion.  We have to persist in peeling away the layers.  It is important that participants not feel any personal guilt or shame.  When we can just put it out there we can then move on.

The subtle unreasonableness of ostensibly reasonable arguments to justify the status quo and to deny forward movement in reducing racism, and prejudices and discrimination is striking once it is revealed for what it is.

I was reminded about how far we have come but also how far we have to go.  Pressure must be constant to ever get to equality.

Examples from our history of how white privilege was used to maintain the status quo.  I had forgotten how reasonable some of those arguments used to sound.  Somebody used the term “insidious.”  Good call.

Through our groups discussion I moved to a somewhat middle ground after learning previously in US history we have already done the very thing I was, fairly vehemently, opposed to.  I feel our current US situation is somewhat different from the past, but I left the session unsettled and thoughtful.

The exercises and presentations addressed important issues and showed the insidiousness of white privilege—again, I would have liked another 15-20 minutes of reflective talk in the whole group.  How do we effectively combat these ideas?

An inspiring and fruitful session.  I loved the small-group discussion.  All in all, thought, I am thrilled and delighted by this opportunity to come together with others to make conscious and to address racial issues in our lives.  A wonderful group of people.

The skits were challenging and the results were scary in some ways.  It seemed much easier to justify and condemn privilege than to figure out how to dismantle it.

Today’s discussion left me feeling frustrated.  It was hard to pretend to act out situations/scenarios for which I STILL have negative feelings.  Sometimes I suppose I have just chosen to ignore much. 

There’s a lot to continue to think about.  I found it awkward to voice things that I knew were definitely wrong.  I’m not black, but I know that I’ve been a part of it in the past out of ignorance.  I’ll take these thoughts home to ponder.