Our community is proud, resilient, strong and filled with disparities. Duluth School District data for 2010 shows that 80% of white students graduate in four years compared to 34% of Native American students and 25% of African American students. 2010 census data for Duluth shows that 18% of whites live in poverty compared to 67% of Blacks and 56% of Native Americans. Recent data from St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services shows that a person living in one specific area of Duluth can expect to live 11 years longer than a person living in another specific area of Duluth. These statistics should be of concern to every one of us. How is our community going to prosper and grow if such disparities exist? How can we accept such inequality?
What is prejudice? The prejudging of a person or situation without sufficient knowledge or facts. Personal and individual beliefs about race that are influenced by the dominant group’s values, practices and beliefs. Anyone can be prejudiced.
What is racism? Racism is more than individual prejudice based on race. Racism is the power of a dominant group, through its systems and institutions, to enforce the dominant culture’s history, values, practices and beliefs. It advantages those in the dominant group and disadvantages those who are not. It results in disparities.
What is white privilege? A set of advantages that are given to people who are part of the majority and dominant group. These opportunities and privileges are often invisible.
Used by permission of the author. Joseph Barndt, Understanding and Dismantling Racism.
White Privilege according to
White privilege is the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements benefits and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white. Generally white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it.
Examples of privilege might be:
- I can walk around a department store without being followed;
- I can come to meeting late and not have my lateness attributed to my race;
- I am able to drive a car in any neighborhood without being perceived as being in the wrong place or looking for trouble;
- I can turn on the television or look to the front page and see people of my ethnic and racial background represented;
- I can take a job without having co-workers suspect that I got it because of my racial background;
- I can send my 16-year old out with his new driver’s license and not have to give him a lesson how to respond if police stop him.
What does this have to do with the Duluth community?
The population of Duluth is 90% white, which may be a factor in our community appearing and functioning as a monoculture. This causes some groups to feel marginalized and excluded.
This outcome was confirmed in a recent report on a three year study, Soul of the Community, commissioned by the Knight Foundation, which stated:
The [Duluth Area] community significantly underperforms against the comparison group overall and in four of the seven individual openness measures. … Fewer residents then in other comparable communities say it is a good place for racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, young adults without children, and talented college graduates looking for work.
What can individuals do to further their understanding of white privilege and structural racism?
“Doing the work” is about understanding structural racism and analyzing the systems we work and live in to look for the characteristic of structural racism. It also entails developing the willingness to continuously evaluate our own actions and seeing that they align with our intents, e.g.: “I don’t intend to take advantage of my white privilege, but I don’t address it or attempt to change it when I identify it.” It also means dedicating ourselves to being in authentic relationships with people of different races and ethnicities.
The following are a few things to keep in mind in doing our personal work:
- A willingness to ask questions and face the answers;
- A willingness to be uncomfortable yet stay focused;
- An understanding of the importance of aligning our impact with our intent (walking the walk);
- An awareness of the possible consequences and risks of the journey;
- A commitment to remain on the journey and intentionally and consistently act to address racial inequities;
How can I “see” structural racism?
Do a power analysis that looks at how money, influence, decision making and relationships affect current outcomes for various groups. This can guide your work and point out possible areas where structural racism is at play. In addition, understanding current racial and power dynamics includes knowing the organizations and individuals currently working on racial equity, what each contributes, and how they might influence this work.
Questions that are important to answer are:
- What are the “coded” or unspoken words or ideas that we need to understand to move our work forward?
- How is power distributed in this community or organization?
- What are the governance structures (formal and informal) and how do they relate to power and change?
- What are the current relationships among and within racial/ethnic groups?
- What are the formal and informal processes that influence decisions? Who is involved? How do various racial/ethnic constituencies influence decisions?
- When groups or individuals buck the status quo, what are the different responses?
What are some characteristics of anti-racist ally behavior?
- Names issue as racism
- Recognizes and makes unearned privilege visible
- Dismantles internalized dominance and the belief in the racial superiority of self as a white person
- Challenges other whites
- Interrupts collusion with other whites who seek to maintain their power and privilege
- Breaks silence and speaks up
- Seeks and validates critical feedback from People of Color
- Facilitates the empowerment of People of Color
- Consistently challenges prevailing patterns
- Takes personal responsibility
- Acts intentionally and overtly
- Is consistently conscious
- Behaves as a change agent
- Promotes and models change for other whites
How do I get involved in the campaign?
The campaign will only be successful if individuals and organizations get involved. Send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also wish to review of list of partners and offer to assist them in their campaign activities. Thank you!