--Dan Pfarr, Chief Executive Officer
Can you agree with the following statements?
- "I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented."
- "When I am told about our national heritage or about ‘civilization,’ I am shown that people who have skin of my own color made it what it is."
- "If a traffic cop pulls me over, or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race."
- "I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time."
Like many of us at 180 Degrees, I am a person whose family includes many cultures - - for me, I’m a mixture of Swedish, German, Ethiopian and African American—and that gives me a unique perspective on this topic. These statements expose the extent of white privilege and the world view that comes with living in a culture whose rules, values, and priorities were set up specifically for white people. For many people, it might come as a shock; for others, it’s a day-to-day reality. But it’s impossible to deny the fact that being born with white skin in America affords people certain unearned privileges in life that people of another skin color are simply not afforded. For all of us who value inclusive and accepting communities, it’s a topic that needs to be wrestled with on a regular basis.
There are no simple answers or solutions to dismantling white privilege. But it is something that we (yes, I am talking to my white colleagues, in particular) need to continually remind ourselves. Yes, as Americans we pride ourselves on our independence, and our pull-yourself-up-from-your-bootstraps mentality; but how much of our successes, and the successes of our family, come from having a special access to White Privilege? This question deserves our honest and frequent contemplation.
And how does this topic affect People of Color? Most people of color can agree that the energy we put in to becoming impactful leaders comes with consequences. Consequences that have become very customary to us such as, judgement, mistrust, tokens, light-privilege, being labeled as Uncle Tom’s, having to prove our worth, scape-goats, exclusion, and a lack of equality. This, my friends, is what I wake up to everyday and awkwardly is part of my norm! Identifying the lack of inequality in the American culture is the first step to recognizing white supremacy.
The White Privilege Conference experience was the most heart-touching, pain-revealing and learning experience, I have had in my lifetime. There were obstacles put in place well before any of us were born that prevent people of color from being equals. Unfortunately, these unwritten rules to keep people of color oppressed has become part of the human DNA, and can be almost impossible to recognize unless you are looking for it. Identifying white privilege is not for the weak minds. Matter of fact, if you are not ready for the truth I would suggest you keep your blinders on as the truth seriously hurts.
My goal of attending the conference was to bring back ideas and strategies that organize, strategize, take action, and deconstruct the culture of white supremacy and privilege in our workplace and communities we serve. The end goal is to create peace, equity and opportunity for all.
Here are a number of links for more information on the topic: