Foundational Work on White Privilege
P. (1988) "White privilege and male privilege: A personal account of
coming to see correspondences through work in women's studies." Excerpted from Working Paper 189,
McIntosh described the knapsack of white
privilege, with the knapsack stuffed with privileges enjoyed in the culture
“• I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to "the person in charge," I will be facing a person of my race.
• 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 easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children's magazines featuring people of my race.
• I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, out numbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.
• I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having coworkers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.
• I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
• I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
• If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.
• I can choose blemish cover or bandages in flesh color and have them more or less match my skin.”
This essay is available from the
Foundational Work on Cultural Competencies
The American Psychological Association and the American Counseling Association worked to modify their ethical guidelines in relation to cultural issues. They developed the acronym ADDRESSING to remind people that they needed to consider:
Age and generational influences
Developmental and acquired Disabilities (cognitive, physical, learning, psychological)
Religion and spirituality
Indigenous heritage (First Nations,
Aboriginal, American Indian,
Native, Inuit, Métis, Mestiso, Native Hawai’ian, Samoan, Chamorro
Guam, Anu people of
National origin (including immigrants, emigrants, refugees and visitors of
These issues and their relevance are discussed in Addressing Cultural
in Practice: A Framework for Clinicians and Counselors by Pamela A. Hays (2001).
Foundational Work on Allies
How do allies prepare themselves for this work?
In relation to a group that has experienced historic oppression, allies understand themselves to experience privilege. They understand the concept of the “knapsack of privilege,” a term coined by Peggy MacIntosh, and can describe privileges they enjoy because of factors completely beyond their own making, such as skin color, abilities, gender identity/expression or affectional/sexual orientation, or class. They are familiar with examples of the ways in which people who are part of marginalized groups experience oppression on a routine basis, and recognize these circumstances when they arise.
Allies also understand the need to work on their own reactions and responses, and know what their own ongoing work in relation to historic oppression is. They understand that people who experience oppression routinely are likely to experience anger, resentment and frustration, and are able to companion or accompany someone going through those reactions. They can separate their internal reactions from those of the person who has experienced historic oppression. Someone who has experienced historic oppression in one area might serve as an ally for someone who has experienced oppression in a different area, and since identities are fluid and shaped in part by the larger culture, someone may be affected by more than one area of historic oppression at any given time.
Many people are familiar with the concept of compassion fatigue, or a “glazeover” factor when an individual reaches the end of her/his ability to work on a particular issue. Allies understand the need to involve people in the work so that when one person reaches the end of his/her ability to participate for the moment, s/he can hand the work over to someone else with confidence. Allies understand that historic oppression involves structural and cultural support that can require much more than one lifetime to change.
One goal of the conference overall, and of these workshops, is to link the concept of being an ally with certain skills that anyone can acquire and use. Someone who is an ally in a particular area can become an ally in a different area, provided s/he is willing to learn the history of how the group has been marginalized or oppressed, and is willing to bring things up rather than letting them slide.
People sometimes think they can become allies just because they want to. Part of our work at this conference will be to make it clear that there’s a good deal of work in relation to being an ally, and that if we do it together, we will acquire cultural competencies around many areas of diversity in our beloved community. Those competencies will serve us well as we work to increase our effectiveness in areas of diversity.
Things allies could do
Pay attention to media presentations on issues of oppression.
Speak up in response to offensive jokes, comments or remarks.
Celebrate successes, large and small, as they occur.
Write letters to newspaper editors and journalists about working to end oppression.
Ask someone who has experienced oppression how s/he would like to be assisted.
Apologize for errors and mistakes, with the understanding that they are inevitable.
Moving On to Mid-Level
Become knowledgeable about the history of a group that has experienced historic oppression.
Participate in workshops and seminars to continue learning about the issues currently facing people who experience oppression.
Educate individuals and groups about issues of oppression.
Seek out and support organizations and institutions that work to correct historic oppression.
Offer assistance to families affected by oppression.
Work with children affected by oppression.
Moving On to Complex Level
Work to change oppressive systems and organizations.
Support societal changes needed by people who experience oppression.
Plan and offer a worship service on justice in any of the areas explored at LREDA’s Fall Conference 2006 (racism, classism, ableism, ethnocentrism/languages other than English, transphobia/genderism, heterosexism/homophobia).
Develop lists of resources (books, articles, videos, DVDs, music, art, poetry, web sites) related to issues of oppression that are of particular importance in your location. Discuss the use of these resources with people active in social justice and adult programs in your congregation.
Get the facts about the history of your community with regard to race and ethnicity.
Find out what the demographics of your community are. Use census data to find out the percentages of racial and ethnic identities in the community in which you live, and the community in which your congregation is located (if they are different).
Explore the possibility that your community is a “sundown town,” that historically chose to deliver the message that African-Americans, Latino/as, Jews, Asian-Americans, or GLBT people should be out of town by sundown. If you find out that your community is a “sundown town,” send that information to Dr. James Loewen, author of Sundown Towns: a Hidden Dimension of American Racism (firstname.lastname@example.org). Let your congregation know what you’ve found.
Go to your community’s Town Hall, and find out if it’s accessible to people with disabilities. Can someone using a wheelchair get in the door? Use the bathroom? Gain access to community forums? Are interpreters available for people who use American Sign Language? Is there Braille signage throughout the building? Are people with multiple chemical and environmental sensitivities guaranteed a smoke- and fragrance-free environment?
Propose a town marker that describes the history of your community in terms of racial justice. If you live in a “sundown town,” include that information on the marker.
Encourage the leaders of your community to publicize an accurate history leading to truth and reconciliation. Encourage them to set up a human relations commission, and to eliminate any requirement that employees live in the community, if there is any evidence that blacks, Latino/as, Asians, Jews, other ethnic minorities, or GLBT people were once excluded, whether by regulation, by restrictive housing covenants, or by public opinion. Encourage youth in your congregation to take an active part in these discussions.
Meet with corporate and business leaders in your location and discuss how they can help. Corporations that insist on open-housing ordinances and equity in hiring practices can help move the community toward justice.
Encourage community leaders to establish a priority around affordable and accessible housing.
If you live in the United States, talk to senators and representatives about the need for a “Resident’s Rights Act,” modeled on Dr. James Loewen’s recommendation (p. 442, Sundown Towns) of an act “parallel to the registration clause of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, extended and strengthen in 1982. This law provides that in counties with an unusual disparity between the percentage of the black and white electorates registered to vote, the Department of Justice can send in federal examiners, once complaints have been received from ten individuals who were rebuffed when trying to register. Similarly, a blatant disparity between the percentage of a town’s population that is African American compared to the proportion in the metropolitan area (the entire state ofr independent sundown towns) will trigger sanctions under the Residents’ Rights Act – when coupled with at least two valid complaints from families who were rebuffed when trying to buy or rent a home in the community and a careful showing that it was a sundown town [italics in the original].” Dr. Loewen recommended that complaints go to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for investigation and remedy, which might include sanctions on tax money being spent on discretionary programs, since “every dollar of federal or state tax money spent in a sundown community is a dollar spent only on white Americans, yet collected from all Americans” (Sundown Towns, p. 443).
Foundational Work on “Covering”
Kenji Yoshino, "The Pressure to Cover" (NY Times Magazine, Jan. 15,
According to the author, “’Covering’ is sociologist Erving Goffman’s term for how we try to “tone down” stigmatized identities, even when those identities are known to the world. In my work, I describe four axes along which individuals can cover: appearance, affiliation, activism, and association.
“Appearance concerns how an individual physically presents himself [herselfhirself] to the world. Affiliation concerns his[/her/hir] cultural identifications. Activism concerns how much he [s/he] politicizes his [her/hir] identity. Association concerns his [her/hir] choice of ‘fellow travelers’ -- spouses, friends, colleagues.
“So a person with an X identity can cover by making sure he [s/he] doesn’t look like a stereotypical X, disaffiliating himself [herself/hirself] from X culture, not engaging in activism about X causes, and distancing himself [herself/hirself] from other Xs. It’s probably easier to see how this works in concrete cases.”
Racial covering involves aligning
oneself with the dominant cultural group, which in the
Sex-based covering for men encourages behaviors that would be described as “masculine” and avoiding behaviors that would be described as “feminine.” A movie that won an Academy Award for actress Hilary Swank is titled Boys Don’t Cry, and research has shown that boys in the United States understand by age 10 that they will be ridiculed if they cry in public, even when they are hurt. The most common insult heard on elementary school playgrounds is “Fag,” used against boys who appear “too feminine.” For women, this kind of covering means support for “feminine” behaviors and ridicule for behaviors that are described as “masculine,” although women are often discouraged from breastfeeding infants in public places. Women who appear “too masculine” are often insulted by being called “dykes” and other derogatory terms calling their affectional/sexual orientation/identity as heterosexuals into question. For transgender people, this kind of “covering” means going along with a dichotomized gender structure, on the grounds that a transgender person could “easily” identify as “man” or “woman,” regardless of how s/he truly identifies. For example, when bathrooms in UU congregations are modified to make them accessible to people using wheelchairs, scooters or walkers, people often insist on using traditional signs indicating “men” and “women,” rather than providing a unisex bathroom that can be used by anyone.
Gay covering involves requiring that people who are lesbian or gay refrain from public displays of affection, including holding hands with a partner. Heterosexuals sometimes say, “I don’t mind if you are gay [or lesbian], but don’t flaunt it,” and express concerns that if too many lesbians or gay men begin to participate in their congregations, they’ll become known as a “gay church.” Bisexual people are often erased from this discussion, or expected to “choose sides” by describing themselves as either lesbian/gay or heterosexual.
Religious covering can range from being
forced to participate in religious practices of the dominant group to
eliminating external signs such as head coverings which signal identity with a
particular religious group. Muslim girls
On July 13, 2006, National Public Radio’s Morning Edition reporter Anne Garrels covered efforts by Debbie Al Mantacer, an elementary school teacher who came to the United States in the 1960s from Yemen, and her husband Najii to persuade the New York City Board of Education to recognize Islamic holidays for the more than one million Muslims living in the city, as they now recognize Christian and Jewish holidays. In 2006, the Board scheduled key school examinations on one of Islam’s holiest days. Najii stated that in his opinion, Muslims are required to decide issues of right and wrong for themselves, rather than following the guidance of imams. Debbie, Najii and their children experienced discrimination after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and believe that they need to end their own religious covering so that non-Muslims will come to trust their Muslim neighbors and friends again, “to promote Islam that is compatible with American life.”
For Unitarian Universalists, this type of “covering” might mean not naming our faith community, not taking the time to explain our beliefs for fear of ridicule or misunderstanding, or going along with anti-UU jokes such as those told regularly by Garrison Keillor, host of National Public Radio’s “Prairie Home Companion.” This kind of “covering” might also mean emphasizing what we do NOT believe rather than stating what we DO believe.
Disability-based covering involves people with disabilities refusing to use
adaptive equipment that would make their lives easier, or going along with
“jokes” on how much space they take up or how much able-bodied people
resent benefits such as restricted parking. A recent example is a statue of
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who became paraplegic after contracting polio,
which depicted him standing without crutches or braces, although he was
unable to stand without assistance and used a wheelchair routinely.
Journalists refrained from letting the public know of
on the grounds that he would not be regarded as “presidential” if people
were reminded that he was disabled.