At the start of this thread, Chissler described the scenario in his apartment building where a family of color had unsuccessfully attempted to move
into that previously (apparently) all-white building. He then asked for our opinions of whether "white privilege" was a factor in subsequent tenant
negative discussions about this episode outside their building.
Based on my studies on developing non-profit services for different ethnic (or different ethnolinguistic) groups, here are my suggestions so far:
1. In the 2 courses I took on this topic, we mostly worked online, but did have some in-person meetings. During each in-person class, as a white
person myself, I was surprised when several apparently white students disclosed either their mixed ethnic heritage, or community problems arising from
their having married a person of color, or issues related to their adoption of a child of color. So I learned to stop assuming that just because a
person looks white, that's all of their story about their issues of ethnicity. One of my musician friends recently joked about being sure to wear
his PFW shoes to a music gig; I asked, "What's PFW?", and he answered "Passing For White". (It turns out he is of mixed ethnicity, with a very
Thus the appearance of an all-white building may or may not be the reality.
2. I have only made one ultra-brief visit to Chissler's country (Canada), so I can't offer any personal observations there. The U.S., however, was
born racist, and to this day matters of ethnicity are often discussed only with those we trust. "Justice for all?" ...that's a good question.
Here is a link to a university program on ethnicity associated with Peggy McIntosh, who I cited earlier in this thread - it includes a photo of
Here is a link to McIntosh's list of examples of the Invisibility of White Privilege:
3. The fact that Chissler noticed and expressed concern about the behavior of fellow tenants who denigrated (at length) a family of color is a key
turning point. Few of us are as articulate as Peggy McIntosh about what white privilege (WP) is, but all white people can stop at some point to
wonder about possible exclusionary behavior in white groups, as Chissler did. When you do that, it's like what Obi-Wan Kenobi said to Luke
Skywalker, "You've taken the first step into a larger universe."
4. So what should the response be to perceived exclusionary behavior by whites against people of color? Great question. I have a friend whose
presence often has an almost-magical healing quality on those around her. I think of her as a peacemaker. So I studied her verbal interactions with
people who expressed problems. She usually didn't say that much in these circumstances. When she did speak, it would be either to ask a pertinent
question about the topic, or if she offered a comment, it was always one that would put some aspect of the situation in a positive light.
Occasionally she would also offer some brief factual information in answer to a previously voiced question from others. Notice that this role calls
for a lot of self-repression of comments which occur to all of us, but fit none of the above categories! ...In a group setting, that relative silence
also saves everyone's time, which people notice and are also grateful for.
So I ask Chissler to consider not totally avoiding the neighbors.
5. Was the apartment building scenario a case of WP? I'd say the possibility has to be kept in mind. With that experience in mind, wait for further
situations to unfold to shed further light on Chissler's question. There will be more.
In a perfect world, any ATS discussion of WP would include self-identification of ethnicity by each person when they start posting their comments.