THINKING ABOUT RACE (May 2011) – Don’t take it so personally!
There is a tendency among white Friends, when talking about race, to “take it personally” and to point out the ways in which one, as an individual, is not “racist.” Yet the larger problem of racism within this country has to do with institutionalized or systemic racism. We are all affected by it, and we can all work to change it. If our “first motion” is individual denial and resistance, then we won’t get far. If we look at it more broadly, we may feel more empowered. Peggy McIntosh, a professor at Wellesley College in Mass., and the author of the widely circulated 1989 article, “Unpacking the Knapsack of White Privilege,” talks about this in a 2009 article, “White Privilege: An Account to Spend.” It was published by the St. Paul Foundation through its anti-racism initiative, “Facing Race: We’re all in this together.” Here is one brief quote: “I find that working against racism mends the social fabric, heals the soul, and reduces fear, isolation and alienation. It is not merely altruistic—it makes things better for everyone.”