Welcome to the White Privilege Working Group! (WPWG, for short)
This diary lays out some guidelines for participation. I am always open to suggestions about how to make the guidelines more fair and more effective, so please don't hesitate to comment. This document will remain in the Queue, and not be published to the general DK community, since it's an internal working paper and subject to regular updating. This doesn't mean it's a "private" document, though -- you can refer to it or quote it publicly, or share the text wherever you feel it would be useful, as long as you make sure that folks know it is a work in progress, and that the version they are reading is not static.
My name is Kali Tal, and I've been doing antiracist and antisexist work in cyberspace since around 1988. I am also a race theorist with a focus in African American Studies, and have been actively engaged in antiracist work for my entire adult life. (You can find out more about me than you ever wanted to know, here .) I founded this group to create a productive and welcoming space for antiracist activists on DK. This includes both white antiracists at any stage of development, and activists of color who are generous enough to share their time and energy to educate others in antiracist practice and theory.
A founding principle of WPWG is that moderated communities are the best communities when it comes to providing space for constructive discussion on sensitive topics. Twenty-five years of work in cyberspace communities has taught me that all it takes to utterly destroy an online environment is a small group of hateful, vocal posters who flood the screen with vitriol and make it impossible for members of oppressed groups to discuss complex and sensitive issues among themselves, and with their allies. Likewise, it is impossible to offer a safe space for white folks who wish to learn the theory and practice of antiracism if they are forced to continually respond to baiting and personal attacks by their racist peers. DK4 is not perfect in terms of providing the right kind of space, but it is a real improvement on DK3, so this is the kind of community I intend to build here with you all.
I am also clear -- after decades of attempting to navigate the covert hierarchies of "non-hierarchical" progressive organizations -- that power structures need to be visible and clearly articulated. So, in WPWG, the buck stops with me. This means that I, personally, take responsibility for ensuring that WPWG is and remains a place where we can conduct our work. There are not very many guidelines and they are not very restrictive, so I don't anticipate strong objections. And I am always open to learning new things and integrating new ideas so don't hesitate to propose alternatives when you see a better way. These are simply the strategies that experience has taught me work best in terms of opening the space for productive discussion among people of color and their allies.
Most of you will be at the "Member" level of WPWG. If you'd like to be promoted to Editor, you can ask me and, if I know you have a track record working on White Privilege and antiracism issues, I'll give you that status. If I don't know you, and other WPWG editors don't know you, you can make a case for why you should be an Editor, or you can just stick around and participate and you'll earn your Editor status over time. Editors should be folks who are willing to devote time and energy to producing useful materials for the group.
1. Courtesy is key. Yes, I know that "manners" were invented to preserve social hierarchies, and that "politeness" is often a code word for "stay in your place." And I know that sudden eruptions in a social space can serve to break through restrictive boundaries, etc. But I am not talking about formal manners here -- I'm talking about respect for other individuals, kindness, patience, and generosity. This is a place where people come to learn and to teach, and presuming good-will and practicing tolerance and giving the benefit of the doubt are all activities that promote those practices. In short, I think we need to assume that all parties are taking a risk by participating in WPWG, and that we should honor each others' willingness to leave our comfort zones by treating each other gently.
2. This doesn't mean that bad behavior will be excused. The presumption is that white folks are here to learn about and develop strategies to combat white privilege and its abuses. I think everyone can understand and accept that a certain amount of defensiveness is natural when people are facing hard truths about themselves. But you cannot learn if you do not let those defenses down and accept criticism in the spirit in which it is meant -- we want to help you develop new behaviors and attitudes that foster antiracist practice. If, however, you make it clear that you are not here to learn, and are instead here to contest the concept of white privilege or to make excuses for it, or to insist repeatedly on engaging in any of the discursive practices described here , WPWG group members can and should feel free to HR your comments. If you continue in this vein, you will soon find yourself @booted because you are no longer a useful contributor to WPWG.
3. Sometimes the process of discovering one's investment in white privilege is very painful. It's important to remember that no single white person is individually responsible for creating the system in which we were granted unearned privileges. We are responsible only for our actions within that system: do we work to dismantle it, or do we benefit from it without attempting to make the world a more equitable place? Experiencing shock and sadness is absolutely a reasonable reaction to the realization one has unfairly benefited from a system of oppression and discrimination. And you will and should find support here while you process those feelings. At these times, however, you should turn more to your white antiracist peers for support than your allies of color. It is not their job to make you feel better (though a surprising number of them are generous enough to offer a shoulder). In short, our allies should not have to comfort us when we're sad that we've oppressed them. So the WPWG is a place for white antiracist activists to develop our own support networks.
4. WPSG will be a great place to call home, but it's no good if you just stay here and bask in the good vibes. As white antiracist activists, it's our job to get out there in the trenches (face-to-face or virtual) and Fight The Good Fight. We need to be educating white folks about racism, standing up for equity, and taking risks to promote fairness and equality and opportunity. All talk and no action won't cut it -- expect to be asked what you're doing out there in the world, and feel free to ask others for advice and ideas about how best to get it done. Ideally, WPWG will serve as a working group and clearing house for White Privilege resources and strategies. I look forward to building this with you!