Developing White Racial Literacy – Revised Edition
Chapter 12: Common Patterns of Well-Meaning White People
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COMMON PATTERNS OF WELL-MEANING WHITE PEOPLE
My town is not racially diverse at all so I would say that I never really focused on my own race at all. My family, school, and neighbors have all given messages of tolerance regarding race when I was growing up, and I was taught to treat everyone equally. I was taught to always be sensitive to race by using P.C. terms when speaking about race. (ASR)
Although we are taught to see ourselves as individuals, we are socialized collectively. This collective socialization results in predictable group patterns of engagement. For over 15 years I have led white people in discussions of race, allowing me an exceptional opportunity to observe some of these patterns. This chapter explores some of the most common.
Guilt is a common response for whites when they begin to take racism seriously. White guilt can be a general reaction to the realization that racism is a system from which they benefit while others suffer. White guilt can also be a response to a more specific incident; perhaps a white person has been given feedback (or has realized independently) that they have just said or done something with a racist impact. Guilt is, of course, a normal response and in and of itself is not ← 223 | 224 → problematic. However, it is what we do with the guilt that matters. We can use our guilt to avoid...
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