Reflections from recent workshop, “Power and Privilege Sharing” in Santa Cruz area, facilitated by Reverend Deborah Johnson, Bonnie Wills, Lauren Parker Kucera, and C. Michael Woodstock.

 

written by Dana Kaiser-Davidson

 

I grew up thinking that the best thing I could do with my privilege was to pretend like I didn’t have it. In a group dialogue about early messages learned about privilege, I inauthentically told the group that I was taught doing good was the best thing to do with privilege. By attending two “White Ally Learning Labs” and reading several books on white privilege, I have learned many tools to support my ability to dialogue about white privilege and racism with white people. I’m also getting better at having a deeper sense of compassion for myself and other white folks.  Even so, I still felt this childhood sweaty palmed fear and desire to hide from the conversation. It was as if I wanted to use the silence as an opportunity to feel bad about myself.

Truth be told, it wasn’t until tenth grade in the cultivation of a few dear friendships with women of color that I truly began to learn through listening to their personal testimony about racism. I got it right away that I could not say, “I know what you mean,” because I had never been made to feel inferior or had my safety in jeopardy because of my skin color.  I grew up believing that my whiteness had nothing to do with having access to benefits in society because I was surrounded by white people who didn’t see themselves as having resources that people of color didn’t have.  

 When I realized that my sense of reality of how the world worked was so different than people of color, shame and guilt immobilized me. I thought silence and hiding was the only way through these feelings. The depth of this silence still grips me because White conditioning has me want to be knowledgeable, in control, comfortable and approved of.  One lesson learned…. the best thing I can do with my privilege is to first be aware and awake to it and then to authentically speak about it, break the code of white silence.

 

 

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