So. As some of you know, I co-facilitate a monthly feminist discussion group here in London. At our last meeting, one of our members suggested we focus our June discussion on racism and white privilege, and I thought it was a brilliant idea.
But here’s the thing. The majority of our group, as it stands, is white. And what at first seemed like a great idea for a challenging conversation now seems ripe with the potential for clueless white person-ness.
At the same time, I also feel like white people not discussing race is a bit of a cop out. A way of fencing off a huge and important political issue as something that is relevant only to “other” people (people of colour, and other, more racist whites). One of the things I love about the concept of white privilege is that it drags white people back into the conversation, serving as a reminder that a) they/we have a race, and b) whether you like it not, race and racism are issues that affect us all.
Ideally, I’d like the conversation to get our members engaging deeply and honestly with their experiences of race – whether as beneficiaries of white privilege/invisibility, victims of racism, or someone who has occupied both positions at different points in their lives.
The question is, how do you do this well? Without people clamming up, and deferring to one another (and thus denying their own engagement with race) and without tokenising anyone, or pushing our POC members into the unwilling role of teacher?
And do you agree with my premise above: that the discomfort many white people seem to feel when it comes to discussing racism is a manifestation of white privilege in and of itself?