Explore white privilege with your faith community

It became clear during 2020 that we, as residents of the United States, are dealing with more than one pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic is new; the pandemic of racism has long been with us. There is no vaccine for racism, but increasing our knowledge is one starting point for eradicating the harm it does.

Faith-based communities generally claim stances of compassion, inclusivity, and loving one’s neighbor. One multi-faith group in Eau Claire has begun an ongoing discussion which started with a six-week course on racial justice called “White Privilege: Let’s Talk.” The group found the curriculum so helpful and enlightening that they are recommending it to other religious groups and organizations in the Chippewa Valley.

“White Privilege: Let’s Talk” was developed by the United Church of Christ as a free, downloadable resource and is appropriate for people of any faith, as well as multi-racial and secular groups. It is available at http://privilege.uccpages.org/. The curriculum invites people into safe, meaningful conversations on race. Its purpose is not to blame or criticize white people, but to empower them to take action and become allies to those of other races.

Eau Claire’s population is 90% white. White-centered culture is so pervasive that it’s often difficult for white people to see it in action. Here are a few examples of how white privilege functions:

If you grew up with an expectation that the vast majority of images on TV, in books, and at movie theaters would share your racial identity, you have white privilege.

If you have NEVER felt the burden of “representing your race”;

If you have NEVER been presumed as intellectually inferior or incapable solely because of the color of your skin;

If you can presume that history courses will provide a narrative about people who look like you;

If this country has NEVER debated the monetary value of all the people who look like you;

If there have NEVER been laws passed to prevent your full participation in democracy;

If you have NEVER been categorized solely on the color of your skin, you have white privilege.

These are adapted from reflections by Traci Blackmon in chapter one of “White Privilege: Let’s Talk.”

There is much to learn. The challenges to breaking down old, harmful systems are immense. The content of our conversations matters, so creating intentional opportunities to learn and grow is an important step toward promoting unity and friendship among all people. Consider studying one of the many resources that are available at https://www.breakdownwhiteness.org/subjects. Work with your religious community or one of the many wonderful initiatives in our community that are addressing racial justice.

This article was submitted by Kim Cronk, Jim and Carolyn Dunning, Jan and Lou Frase, Ned Gannon, Karol Hommen, Bill and Mary Kell Cayley, Ruth Peterson, Amy Renshaw, Susan and John Wagner, Rev. Kathy Reid Walker and Bilhenry Walker.