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Essays on Critical Race Theory – Part 3

Whiteness as Property
“Let’s talk about power and white privilege”

In other words, “the accumulation of power in order to sustain privilege”

As marginalized people we should strive to increase our power, cohesiveness, and representation in all significant areas of society. We should do this though, because we are entitled to these things and because fundamental fairness requires this allocation of power.

Delgado, 2009, p 110

Whiteness as Privilege and Property

“Whiteness as Property” argues that being “White” in the United States makes accessible the right to own property and the benefits that come from its ownership (Soliman, 2010). Owning property is about power and the accumulation of power enhances and sustains “white privilege.” In this short essay I will address power and white privilege, noting that the accumulation and cultivation of power is what leaders of color and allies should focus on. Forgive my pessimism that there is any degree of a “fundamental fairness requiring an allocation of power” in educational systems as we currently encounter them. There is little equity and much less access for people of color as to the allocation of power which has been at the forefront of much of my teaching over the years. In fact, there is a great deal of “white privilege” as alluded to in Critical Race Theory. I recall in the early 2000’s as a student in the UCLA Educational Leadership Doctoral Program, my research on Latina and Latino leaders showed that at that point in time there were 1056 school districts in the State of California, most of them small school districts. The leadership of these districts included seventy-five (75) Latina and Latino superintendents, sixty-four males (64) and eleven (11) females. Where was the equity in that situation? There was certainly no equitable allocation of power. Today, almost 80% of all students in the state of California are students of color…are they represented yet by an appropriate number of leaders of color? I’ve not done the research that I did twenty years ago, but I venture to say that the answer is still “no.” Power is about the accumulation and continual cultivation of white privilege. Delgado (2009) states, as marginalized people we should strive to increase our power, cohesiveness, and representation in all significant areas of society. I still maintain that much of what we do in our different walks of life is about the accumulation and preservation of power which results in privilege:

  • Privilege provides disproportional access to resources, to the ability to influence, and to power.
  • Privileges are given by systems to individuals on the basis of position and/or identity.
  • Privileges are granted because a group and its members are deemed more “worthy” than other groups.

“White privilege.” It has been my experience that there is little that upsets a white person more than to begin a discussion on race by using the term “white privilege.” It is the match that lights the way for becoming infuriated and making a discussion on race virtually impossible. However, in an attempt to keep discussions under control I would assign the reading of Peggy McIntosh’s classic work White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack. One of the first articles written by a white person on the topic.If you have not had the opportunity to read this short piece, I strongly suggest you do so. Early in this article, McIntosh comes right out and states:

As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something which puts others at a disadvantage but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage. I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege.

I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.

Picture your access to “blank checks” as the opportunity to get what you want even though you have done nothing to earn it. The checks are there for use simply because one is white. A question I have asked and continue to ask is “really? how is this equitable?” In the professional realm of educational leadership, it was as if to look at all of the students in my school and accept that all students who are white would be granted more simply because they are white…they did not earn it = White privilege.

Will the education system at both P12 and higher education ever change? Is the system of schooling subject to change? Consider these questions as you read these next few words:

Every system is exquisitely designed to produce the results it gets. If you want to change the results, you have to change the systems. Central to critical race theory is that racism and as a result “white privilege” is much more than individual prejudice and bigotry; rather, racism is a systemic feature of social structure (Bonilla-Silva, 2015). Power in schools is about “equity and access.” Let us walk the talk…

Stay strong is social justice,

Dr. Ken