I am a racist – a recovering racist. My workplace has helped me open my heart and mind to how racism shaped me. As editor of the At the Heart of Justice blog, I was pleased to uplift the theme of racial justice. What I came to understand was that my pleasure reflected my White privilege — I could choose to focus on this issue.
Over the years I’ve worked with racialized staff. Our working relationships were sometimes difficult because of different perspectives and cultural norms. But I also came to recognize my racism — the belief that my way, or the dominant White culture’s way of doing things, was better or superior.
A few years ago, while listening to a racialized woman with a strong accent, speak in a meeting, I became conscious of my surprise at how intelligent she sounded. I was shocked to realize my previously unconscious assumption that a racialized person with a strong accent wasn’t as intelligent as a white person! It stopped me dead in my tracks! And the humbling truth of my own racism and sexism hit me. How often had my assumptions of White superiority stopped me from hearing a non-white person’s voice?
After the meeting I opened up to my colleague. I experienced discomfort and guilt, but we had a hard, honest conversation about differences and how power and privilege were at work. As a result of my learning — and unlearning — we were able to develop a more respectful and healthy relationship.
Every day I continue to learn about my own racism and privilege — recognizing my prejudices based on stereotypes (e.g. fear of young black men) which I’d rather not admit. I am learning to live with discomfort and engage in honest reflection.
Racism doesn’t mean being prejudiced against someone because of their race. Racism is prejudice plus power. Racism is not something that happens outside of me but is a system of oppression and privilege where I, as a member of the dominant white race, benefit from the oppression of others — whether I want to or not.
As a recovering racist I am also learning how to become an anti-racist ally, following the leadership of people of colour. But that’s a blog for another day, or you can check out some resources below.
Today I’m talking about my racism and White privilege. What has your experience been? Let’s continue the conversation.
Jordan is Ministry Partnership Animator in the Church in Mission Unit. His work includes supporting the church’s camping ministries, campus ministries, and community and social justice ministries. He also serves as lead staff for LGBTQ Justice and Poverty in Canada, and supports the work of Racial Justice and Gender Justice.
Becoming an anti-racist ally:
Racism and White Privilege:
Additional resources at:
- Cherishing and Celebrating Racial Differences
- White Privilege – the Elephant in the Room
- The Corridor of Privilege