I'm participating this week in a webinair on white privilege. The webinair is an orientation to a new curriculum being introduced by the United Church of Christ, our denomination. It is designed to help folks explore what it means to be white in America. The course will be focusing on issues like education, incarceration and economics, and how being white in America confers certain often unrealized privileges.
I'm taking the webinair to learn more not only about the issue, but also about the curriculum. I am hoping to use it here at the church in the coming year. While I know folks in my congregation will be open to discussing the issues, I wonder how they will respond to the basic premise? Like most UCC congregations, we are overwhelmingly white (as is Sanibel in general.) Our county, Lee County, is not--there are large numbers of African-Americans, Hispanics, and others. But for the most part, aside from their presence during the day as part of the minimum wage work force, they are not on the island.
During the webinair's first session today there were two or three instant polls of participants asking a variety of questions. One of them had to do with how I had experienced white privilege. Had it given me any advantages in things like employment, housing or education? Had it bettered my chances of receiving a loan? I suspect the answer to all of these is yes, but I could not truthfully say I had been aware of any advantage in most of the areas listed. And that, I imagine, is the problem. Those of us who are privileged, don't even realize it most of the time. It is so "baked in" to our culture, that we think the way we are able to live is the norm for all.
I imagine I will learn much over these next few days as I think about the issue. I am glad that the last session is something of a "where to from here" session.. How can I,
as a white person, be a part of bringing about change. I suspect that's the biggest issue of all. Clearly, awareness is the first step--but what next?