Privilege: The Perils and Promises

One of the main purposes of the Just Action Series is to address the institutional privileges that dominate our society, raising awareness not only of the dangers and consequences, but also to raise questions about the positive outcomes of privilege, and whether it is a condition to avoid or one that could improve the situation of systemic racism in America. The mere acknowledgement that this privilege exists goes a long way in repairing U.S. race relations, and our goal is to provide a scholarly lens through which to view the perils and promises of privilege, in order to help anyone who accesses the resource guide hosted by Luther College, to make more informed opinions or decisions on events around the country that continue to bring about a call for social change. We hope that in providing academic studies, articles, books, and videos on the sociological factors behind the disparity in America will influence awareness or instigate a rational conversation about racial discrimination and inequality.

This page serves as a medium of information that instigates students and faculty to talk about race relations, but it shouldn't be limited to just this site. The most important part is to ask questions; Do not be afraid to approach a faculty member and ask for their opinion on critical issues, to open a conversation about race relations between friends, or to form an opinion on the critical issues in America and talk the views of others in amicable discussion.

"What does privilege really mean?"

"Can there be privilege if I don't notice that I have it?"

"How do different levels of privilege affect my social interactions and worldviews?"

"Should we work to do away with privilege?"

These are just a few of the many questions that could spark a constructive and exploratory conversation that Luther College and the Diversity Center hope to foster on campus. To raise awareness, it is important to transcend certain social barriers in order to create an environment that is conducive of this sort of discussion and is free of stigma and judgement. In order to make more informed decisions, it is important to engage in critical conversations and have a place that harbors critical thinking and open uninhibited discussion, and this is one of the goals that the Just Action Series hopes to accomplish.


Academic Articles

"White Fragility" A paper by Robin DiAngelo

"White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress. This insulated environment of racial protection builds white expectations for racial comfort while at the same time lowering the ability to tolerate racial stress, leading to what I refer to as White Fragility. White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium. This paper explicates the dynamics of White Fragility"

"200 Years of White Affirmative Action: White Privilege Discourse in Discussions of Racial Inequality," a study by Brianne Hastie and David Rimmington

"Since the seminal work of McIntosh, research on multiple forms of privilege (race, gender, sexuality, (dis)ability, class, religion) has expanded, with a particular focus on how inducing recognition of privilege can build support for equality. However, evidence has been mixed on whether interventions increase support for policies designed to redress inequality. The present study looks at how respondents use arguments about privilege in naturalistic discussions, in this case, 357 online comments regarding a US Supreme Court ruling of racial discrimination. In particular, we can see how four cumulative strategies build to allow the presentation of racial privilege: connecting past to current inequality; constructing ongoing unequal treatment as contributing to current disadvantage; reclaiming ‘liberal’ arguments for ‘liberal’ ends; and defining group differences as consisting of both disadvantage and privilege. These strategies can be deployed to build a privilege discourse to contest inequality and racism. This provides potential strategies for privilege-based interventions to achieve their aims in increasing support for equality policies" SAGE Publications, Inc.

"An Empirical Analysis of White Privilege, Social Position, and Health"

"Accumulated evidence has demonstrated that social position matters for health. Those with greater socioeconomic resources and greater perceived standing in the social hierarchy have better health than those with fewer resources and lower perceived standing. Race is another salient axis by which health is stratified in the U.S... In this paper, we investigated how perceptions of inequality and subjective and objective social status affected the health and well-being of 630 White residents in three Boston neighborhoods lying on a social gradient differentiated by race, ethnicity, income and prestige. Outcomes were self-rated health, dental health, and happiness. Results suggested that: White residents living in the two wealthiest neighborhoods, and who perceived Black families as welcome in their neighborhoods, enjoyed better health than those who believed them to be less welcome. However, those who lived in the least wealthy and most diverse neighborhood fared worse when reporting Black families to be welcome. These results suggest that White privilege and relative social position interact to shape health outcomes." -Pergamon Press

"White Privilege Awareness and Efficacy to Reduce Racial Inequality Improve White Americans' Attitudes Toward African Americans"

"Two experiments examined effects of heightened awareness of white privilege (illegitimate advantages held by White Americans) and efficacy to reduce racial inequality on White American college students' attitudes toward African Americans and White Americans. Efficacy to reduce inequality was either measured (Experiment 1) or manipulated (Experiment 2), and heightened white privilege awareness (WPA) was either manipulated (Experiment 1) or held constant (Experiment 2). All participants, except control participants in Experiment 1, read a passage describing their university's under-representation of African American faculty. Afterward, they wrote letters in support of hiring more African American faculty and were told there was either a 95 percent or 5 percent chance their actions would be effective (Experiment 2) or were simply thanked and their perceived efficacy concerning change measured (Experiment 1). Heightened WPA and higher efficacy (measured and manipulated) independently improved participants' attitudes toward African Americans, but had no effect on their attitudes toward White Americans." - Wiley-Blackwell


Movies and Videos

"WHITE LIKE ME", produced by Tim Wise. Available for 24 hour rent on Vimeo for $4.99

"For years, Tim Wise's bestselling books and spellbinding lectures have challenged some of our most basic assumptions about race in America. WHITE LIKE ME brings the full range of his work to the screen, showing how white privilege has perpetuated racial inequality and race-driven political resentments in ways most white people simply aren't aware of."



"Undoing Privilege: Unearned Advantage in a Divided World," by Bob Pease - Available for check-out at Preus Library

Pease, Bob. Undoing Privilege: Unearned Advantage in a Divided World. London: Zed, 2010. Print.

"For every group that is oppressed, one or more other groups are privileged in relation to it. In Undoing Privilege, Bob Pease argues that privilege, as the other side of oppression, has been given insufficient attention in both critical theories and in the practices of social change. As a result, dominant groups have been allowed to reinforce their dominance. Undoing Privilege explores each of the main sites of privilege, from Western dominance, class elitism and white and patriarchal privilege to the less well examined sites of heterosexual and able-bodied privilege, examining the interconnections between them. The book's analysis points out that while the vast majority of people may be oppressed on at least one form of stratification, many are also privileged on another. Pease also demonstrates that members of privileged groups can develop a self-critical engagement with their own dominant position, and explores both the potential and the limitations of such individuals becoming allies against oppression and their own unearned privilege."

"Power, Privilege, and Difference," by Allan G. Johnson -- Available for check-out at Preus Library

Johnson, Allan G. Privilege, Power, and Difference. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, 2006. Print

"This brief book is a groundbreaking tool for students and non-students alike to examine systems of privilege and difference in our society. Written in an accessible, conversational style, it links theory with engaging examples in ways that enable readers to see the underlying nature and consequences of privilege and their connection to it. This extraordinarily successful book has been used across the country, both inside and outside the classroom, to shed light on issues of power and privilege."

"White Awareness: Handbook for Anti-Racism Training," by Judith H. Katz

Katz, Judith H. 1978. White Awareness: Handbook for Anti-Racism Training. Norman:  Oklahoma University Press.

"Responding to the challenge of creating a learning environment in which to address racism, White Awareness provides a detailed step-by-step guide through six stages of learning – from awareness to action. The exercises within each of the stages focus on key themes including: defining racism and its inconsistencies, confronting the reality of racism, exploring aspects and implications of white culture and identity, understanding cultural differences, examining cultural racism, analyzing individual racism, and developing action strategies to combat racism."

"Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk About Race and How To Do It," by Shelly Tochluk

Tochluk, Shelly. 2010. Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk About Race and How to Do It. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield.

"Witnessing Whiteness invites readers to consider what it means to be white, describes and critiques strategies used to avoid race issues, and identifies the detrimental effect of avoiding race on cross-race collaborations. The author illustrates how racial discomfort leads white people toward poor relationships with people of color. Questioning the implications our history has for personal lives and social institutions, the book considers political, economic, socio-cultural, and legal histories that shaped the meanings associated with whiteness. Drawing on dialogue with well-known figures within education, race, and multicultural work, the book offers intimate, personal stories of cross-race friendships that address both how a deep understanding of whiteness supports cross-race collaboration and the long-term nature of the work of excising racism from the deep psyche. Concluding chapters offer practical information on building knowledge, skills, capacities, and communities that support anti-racism practices, a hopeful look at our collective future, and a discussion of how to create a culture of witnesses who support allies for social and racial justice."