When the discussion is about race, it easily becomes about the problems people of color face. It’s also easy to slip into colorblind objectives unless we actively stress the systemic inequality that is part of our racialized society and institutional oppression.
When the topic of discussion is about white privilege, we instead focus on the problems created because us whites are over-privileged. As individuals, we cannot deny those privileges that are deeply encoded into society both formally and informally. But we can chose to recognize that privilege and, by allying ourselves with people of color, learn to use that privilege in ways that may eventually lead towards a more just and inclusive society.
Ultimately, we need to enter into this discussion not because people of color need our help, but because we whites need their help in dealing with this sin.
Thanks to those who have been joining into discussions on this topic to help me begin to internalize this lesson. This includes discussions the past week at the international community informatics research network conference; discussions the past couple of months with a Christian formation class at Twin City Bible Church focused on race and God’s call to justice; and the past couple of years through a reading group at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science.