Colorlines on the Importance of Discussing Privilege

In response to recent, prominent online discussions of privilege on Thought Catalog and Gawker, Jamilah King at Colorlines spoke to experts in institutional racism and structural inequality to find out why having these discussions is important, still.

Terry Kehlerer, training director at the Applied Research Center, Colorlines.com’s publisher

“I think that it’s really important for white people to understand that they are racially privileged. Regardless of how anti-racist or racist or racially clueless they are, they still have privilege. No amount of guilt or shame about it, if that’s where they want to go, is going to change the fact that they have privilege. Rather than trying to hide your privilege or step outside of your privilege, it’s more important to figure out how to utilize your privilege in ways that are going to be constructive. And privilege can actually be an asset. When you have money or access to information or access to relationships, those can all be delivered in service to racial justice and social justice. You have to do it ways that are thoughtful and skillful and accountable and not recklessly or in ways that are patronizing.

I think what’s problematic is that they’re often treated as individualistic notions when really [privilege and oppression] are structural concepts. You can’t pit different identities against each other and treat them as if they are personal attributes when in fact the identities are fluid and they’re relational and they’re part of a larger social construct and a larger social context and they have to be understood in that way. And I think by reducing it in the way that the Gawker piece does, to just personal attributes that can be pitted against each other, it’s just not useful.”

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