Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

July 8, 2016

Understanding Facets of “White Privilege”

Conduct a discussion as a way to allow white students in your class to be aware of some preferential treatments they experience because they are white. Likewise, allow students of color to discuss their perspectives of some of these experiences.

Make a worksheet of with the twelve items listed below and pass it out to the students.  These items were adapted from “Celebrating Racial Diversity” by Kathleen McGinnis and published in Activities for Catholic Social Teaching.

Items

  1. I can walk down a residential street in a white neighborhood and no one will automatically think I am a babysitter or a delivery person.
  2. If I can make any grammatical or spelling errors, no one will attribute my mistakes to my race.
  3. I can walk into a store late at night and probably no one will think I am there to rob it.
  4. In the classroom, it is not automatically assumed that I will have to work harder than others to get good grades.
  5. Most everyone who looks at me will assume that I am an American citizen and can speak English.
  6. If I have a responsible job or scholarship, no one thinks I got it because of “quotas.”
  7. Other white people in an elevator won’t tense up and wonder what I might do.
  8. I can pay with a credit card or check and won’t be questioned.
  9. People hear I am going to college and no one is surprised.
  10. If I want to teach my younger brothers and sisters about my culture, there are many museums and cultural events to which I can take them.
  11. I can have or wear nice things or ride in a nice car and no one will automatically think I am being wasteful or say, “Isn’t that typical?”
  12. No one assumes when I give my opinion that I am speaking on behalf of my entire race.

Ask the white students to mark each of the twelve items with a plus sign for items they agree with, a minus sign for those they disagree with, and a question mark for those they are not sure about or don’t understand. Students of color should mark the items they have experienced.

Take each item, one at a time, and ask the students how they marked them. Spend additional time discussing the items that generate the most intense response.

Present this final question: “What other privileges do white Americans enjoy?” Have the students write their responses. Then spend time discussing their responses. Write some of the things they listed on the board.

Conclude with a final reflection. Ask the students how they felt about this activity. Then have them brainstorm some solutions to these issues and suggest ways to rectify white privilege.

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