Dismantling Racism

Other Manual Translations: español

Deconstructing white privilege: A vital conversation and study

Participation in Vital Conversations 1: Realities of Race and Racism will jumpstart the conversation about racial justice, diversity and effectiveness in your congregation or community. It is GCORR’s hope that these “Vital Conversations” videos transform lives, congregations, and communities.

Dr. Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism and What Does it Mean to Be White? Developing White Racial Literacy, opens the series. An anti-racist educator, she has heard justifications of racism by white men and women in her workshops for over two decades. This justification, which she calls “white fragility,” is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable. This triggers a range of defensive moves including an outward display of emotions such as anger, fear and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence and leaving the stress-inducing situation.

“Deconstructing White Privilege: A Group Study” (Download .pdf)

Check-in

Ask about everyone’s week, along with prayers for joys and sorrows.

Open with Prayer

Ask for a volunteer to pray.

Introduction to “Deconstructing White Privilege” Video

All of us must seek the light of God, the light of truth in recognizing oppression. We begin to do so in this session, which focuses on the oppressive behavior that is born out of white privilege. Dr. Robin DiAngelo is transparent about white privilege couched in explicit and implicit biases in the video “Deconstructing White Privilege,” the first in a series of "Vital Conversations on Realties of Race and Racism".

Dr. DiAngelo describes the most obvious and explicit aspects of racism and white privilege, while going beyond the surface of racism. Her video serves as a foundation on understanding racism and white privilege for the remaining six videos in the Vital Conversations series.

Watch the video.

Discussion Questions

1. What ideas presented by Dr. DiAngelo stood out for you? How does she describe her experience as one who recognizes herself as a white person, especially when it comes to interacting with people of color?

2. How does denying the existence of racism and white privilege perpetuate racial inequality and unequal outcomes? What are explicit and implicit biases? Give some examples from the video along with some of your own.

3. How can identifying the pillars – individualism, universalism, internalized superiority, good/bad binary, segregation, and mis-education – help in challenging racism? What are the next steps?

4. Dr. DiAngelo says we are not “operating in the spiritual realm” when it comes to racial issues. Is this true for Christians and what does that mean concerning racism and justice both theologically and biblically? Based on our Christian experiences and the Bible how can we begin to act against inequity and racism?

 Note: “Deconstructing White Privilege: A Discussion Guide” (download or see below) offers more questions and ideas for on-going discussions on the realities of race and racism.

 Closing Prayer in Unison

Light a candle as a reminder of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Most High God, You urge us to advocate for justice for the widowed and the orphaned. For our contemporary times, one form of oppression is against people of color through white privilege. Open our eyes to the impact racism has on the widowed and the orphaned . . . the African- American woman brutalized by the police . . . the Mexican American being told derisively to go back to Mexico. Use us to face white privilege and dismantle racism. Amen.

“Deconstructing White Privilege”: Additional Questions/Discussion Starters

(It might be helpful for people who identify as white to meet as a group first and have a discussion on Dr. DiAngelo’s video, then meet in an interracial group. Please allow time and space for individuals to tell their stories)

  1. When were you first aware of your racial identity? What were the circumstances and how did you feel? What, if anything, were you told, taught or shown about “your” race?
  2. What is your racial-ethnic identity? Do you celebrate it in any way? (Family traditions? Stories? Photos?)
  3. Tell a story about the earliest time in your life that you became aware other races. What were the circumstances? What, if anything, were you told, taught or shown about that other racial group?
  4. Name a time recently when, in worship, Sunday school, Bible study or another discipleship setting, the pastor or leader expressed any value in being in any kind of positive relationship with people of other races?
  5. Tell a story about a time when a discussion or encounter involving race made you reflect or think about your life as a Christian? About your role as a mentor or parent or grandparent? About your own friendships or relationships?
  6. Dr. DiAngelo emphasizes that racism is not an individual “bad” act done by “bad” people. Rather, she talked about institutional or systemic impacts of racism. What is the difference between individual prejudice and institutional power?
  7. What are some evidences of institutional racism in your community? Church? Families?

Adapted from information about Vital Conversations 1: Realities of Race and Racism, originally published by the General Commission on Religion and Race in 2017.