Racism and White Privilege: Reading and Resources

Sharon Raz

Race and Racism

Racism, also called racialism, is the belief that humans may be divided into separate and exclusive  biological entities called “races”; that there is a causal link between inherited physical traits and traits of personality, intellect, morality, and other cultural and behavioral features; and that some races are innately superior to others. The term is also applied to political, economic, or legal institutions and systems that engage in or perpetuate discrimination on the basis of race or otherwise reinforce racial inequalities in wealth and income, education, health care, civil rights, and other areas. Such institutional, structural, or systemic racism became a particular focus of scholarly investigation in the 1980s with the emergence of critical race theory, an offshoot of the critical legal studies movement. Since the late 20th century the notion of biological race has been recognized as a cultural invention, entirely without scientific basis (Britannica). Racism is woven into the fabric of American life, both overtly and subtly; within its institutions and policies. It divides us by delegating power and defining stations of superiority and inferiority. The United States has an immutable history of injustice and violence against people of color. Talking about race and racism, although hard, is necessary. The purpose of this page is to provide you with tools, resources, and guidance to empower your journey and inspire conversation in your class. This page is not meant to be exhaustive and I will be continually updating it as I am made aware of more resources that may be relevant to our discussion. Here are some readings and videos that focus on race and racism in America:

First, you can find a discussion on racism and White privilege in part 2 of Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (2016):

  • Chapter 5 (pages 133-182) focuses on racism and White privilege.

In addition, below you can find a variety of resources (reading and videos) that address racism in different ways:

White Privilege

It is often challenging to address White Privilege. White privilege refers to the collection of benefits that White people receive in societies where they top the racial hierarchy. Made famous by scholar and activist Peggy McIntosh in 1988, the concept includes everything from Whiteness being equated with being “normal” to Whites having more representation in the media. White privilege leads to White people being viewed as more honest and trustworthy than other groups, whether or not they have earned that trust. This form of privilege also means that White people can easily find products suitable for them—cosmetics, band-aids, hosiery for their skin tones, etc. While some of these privileges might seem trivial, it’s important to recognize that no form of privilege comes without its counterpart: oppression. White privilege doesn’t mean White people don’t have any hurdles, it just means they enjoy some privilege by being White and don’t struggle with racism. White people might still struggle with other forms of oppression. White privilege can be challenging to think about from an individual (micro-level) perspective because many who identify as white don’t necessarily see it as a privilege. However, it may be easier to understand if we can see white privilege happening (perpetuated) at an institutional (macro) level.

Here are some resources that can help us unpack the topic:

* From the readings and the videos I hope you will be able to reflect on why we are continuing to struggle as a nation when it comes to race and ethnicity. Some of the readings will speak to you and others may challenge you. Stay with them and think about how they will support your understanding of where we are as a country when it comes to race relations.

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