Teaching ‘White Privilege’ Doesn’t Accomplish What You Think

I recently attended a Washington-D.C. event focused on community-building hosted by The Aspen Institute’s Weave project, which works to reduce social isolation and build bonds between Americans. During one portion of the event, various activists described how racism had impacted their lives and their communities. Following a number of such testimonials, a white woman from southeast Ohio named Sarah Adkins spoke about her own community work, which involves raising money to provide post-trauma support to individuals affected by tragedies. Perhaps because several speakers had discussed racism and issues related to white privilege, Adkins spoke about her own self-perceived racial privilege. I followed the perfect mold…I did all the things, I went to college, and I keep thinking of white privilege in my head so forgive me, that’s what’s in my head right now, very much white privilege, she said, while reflecting on her middle class life in an affluent neighborhood. But Adkins also went on to describe the reason she originally had become involved in community work—which is that her then-husband had killed both of …

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