Unpacking White Privilege

If you read nothing else today, read Anthea Butler’s piece on women of color and feminism. Read it if you are White. Read it if you are a man. Read it if you eat green eggs and ham. If you choose to continue reading this post instead of going directly to Butler’s, I will offer a few highlights, a nugget’s worth of closing remarks, and a reminder to go read it again. She offers a succinct history lesson, a recommended path forward, and a stark reminder that the interplay of unacknowledged privilege and systematic oppression deplete any kind of feminist praxis. She writes,

“Not recognizing that privilege of whiteness or class hampers the ability of feminists across ethnic lines to join together for common causes.”

I react: we need every one of us to realize the revolution. Let’s get it together! We can do this, but it’s going to take a lot of work. She writes,

“Ignoring our common struggles and presence because of white privilege and historical ignorance is no longer an excuse. Solidarity cannot come from only one group reaching out to the other. White feminists must come to grips with their own internalized structures of racism, classism, and even sexism that prevent them from seeing other feminists of color.”

I react: this coming to grips with internalized privilege and oppression seems to be the key here. We need to examine what’s going on inside ourselves and our organizations if we are ever going to get past the everyday barriers that hold us back.

As a White feminist and aspiring White anti-racist, I am finding that it’s invaluable to make sure that I am finding the time and space to unpack my own experiences of privilege and internalized oppression. An anti-racism training with Cultural Bridges to Justice allowed us the space to do just that. The result seems to be a collective of individuals who were recharged in their efforts to dismantle oppression.

The trainers reminded us that feeling guilty about having privilege does nothing to help anyone. In place of guilt, take action. jona olson of Cultural Bridges offered an equation that makes good sense, and I think could be adapted for any kind of privilege:

White privilege + passion for racial justice + ACTION = White anti-racist

That was the nugget. This is the reminder: go read Women of Color and Feminism: A History Lesson and Way Forward.

Filed under