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The dark side of being white

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WEB P&E MCC New_study_guide_print

Sue Eagle helped develop a study guide that assists people with examining white privilege.
MCC photo by Gladys Terichow

A new study guide, supported in part by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), helps individuals and congregations explore how “white privilege” can be an expression of racism. 

Canadians of European ancestry generally don’t pay much attention to the benefits and advantages they enjoy because of their skin colour, says Sue Eagle, a director of MCC’s Indigenous Work program in Canada.

“It is impossible to work toward racial justice and reconciliation without naming and dismantling unearned white privilege,” says Eagle.

The study guide, Cracking Open White Identity towards Transformation, contains personal stories and questions for critical reflection and discussion.

Eagle is among 15 people who shared their personal experiences of white privilege in this resource published by the Canadian Council of Churches.

Married to Harley Eagle, a member of Dakota and Salteaux First Nations, Eagle’s reflections, “Mummy, I’m part White,” explore the issues she faces as a woman of white European descent raising two children who are part Aboriginal.

“As she grows, Danielle needs to figure out, with her father’s and my help, what it means to have a legacy of White privilege with its racial superiority, from my side of the family, and a history of oppression and internalized feelings of racial inferiority,” she writes in the book.

Eagle says it’s difficult to recognize the unearned benefits and advantages of white privilege because they are largely invisible and socially accepted.

“I can watch the news and see people who look like me depicted in roles that show strength, intelligence, and power,” she says. “If staff in a store pays attention to me, it is to offer assistance, not to keep an eye on me for fear that I am planning to shoplift.”

In addition to mending relations with Indigenous Peoples, Eagle says examining unearned white privilege will also help individuals and congregations experience more authentic relationships with newcomers to Canada.

“As people of faith, we believe all children are created in God’s image and we want to challenge ourselves and our congregations to live lives that reflect that core belief,” says Eagle.

The study guide is available at www.councilofchurches.ca/en/Resources/resources.cfm.

Gladys Terichow is a writer for MCC Canada

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