Common Expressions of White Privilege and How to Counter Them

  • Ilsa Govan Cross Cultural Connections
  • Caprice Hollins Cross Cultural Connections

Abstract

When facilitating workshops about the social dynamics of racism and privilege, it is important to remember that those dynamics are always in the room and can trigger responses in both the participants and the facilitators. Skilled facilitators not only recognize expressions of white privilege and counteract them, they also use these instances as an opportunity to grow the understanding of workshop participants. In this article, we will share several ways we’ve seen white privilege manifest itself in workshops and strategies we’ve used to successfully deepen, rather than shut down, the conversation. Topics covered include dominating the conversation; reframing or invalidating the experience of people of color; valuing the product over the process; believing that logic, reasoning, and linear thinking do not involve emotion; being agenda bound; and distancing oneself from other white people.

Author Biographies

Ilsa Govan, Cross Cultural Connections
Ilsa Govan, M.A. is a co-founder of Cross Cultural Connections. She has more than fifteen years of experience as a classroom teacher and anti-racist community organizer.  She began her work for social and environmental justice in high school with her involvement in advocating for Native American rights.  Since then she has facilitated and participated in numerous study circles and conferences and worked as an Equity and Race Specialist for Seattle Public Schools. She currently co-coordinates the group WEACT (The Work of European Americans as Cultural Teachers), which encourages educators to challenge and support each other with cross-cultural interactions.

Ilsa earned her Bachelor's Degree in Special Education from Western Washington University and her Master's Degree in Bicultural Human Development from Pacific Oaks College Northwest. For her thesis, she spent a year studying effective European American teachers of African American students in three Seattle elementary schools.
Caprice Hollins, Cross Cultural Connections
Caprice D. Hollins, Psy.D. is a co-founder of Cross Cultural Connections and a licensed clinical psychologist.  She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Seattle University and her doctorate at Alliant International University—Los Angeles campus, with an emphasis in multicultural and community psychology.  She has over 15 years of experience providing mental health services, facilitating workshops and teaching graduate courses as an adjunct professor at several local universities including Seattle Pacific University, Antioch University, University of Washington and Mars Hill Graduate School.

She joined Seattle Public Schools as the first Director of Equity and Race Relations where she supported the educational mission of the District to dismantle institutional racism.  Her role included providing guidance and resources to district administrators and staff, facilitating culturally relevant professional development to promote the cultural competence of staff, review of School Board policy to ensure equity, promoting best practices around family and community engagement, and screening curriculum for anti bias and multicultural content.