Introduction

White privilege is the result of white supremacy, the system of racism that privileges people with light skin over all other people. White privilege shows up in many structural, systematic, and social ways. When white skin is valued and considered “supreme,” people with white skin have the freedom to move through life with more privileges and opportunities than people with any other skin color. It is so important for students, and everyone, to learn about white privilege and to reflect on their own privileges as the first step to harnessing their own positionality as agents of social change. Understanding the structures and manifestations  of white privilege encourages students to understand that being complicit in a system of white supremacy is a form of racism itself, because neutrality does nothing to change these status quos that privilege some and marginalize others. Reflecting on our own positions and privileges in society allows us to best direct our actions to be most meaningful and impactful in the fight for social justice and equity.

Resources

There are a wealth of excellent resources available for teachers to teach about white privilege. Historically, white privilege is not a social phenomenon that is taught about in schools, but to best educate future civic leaders, teachers must approach this topic with humility and integrity. In this society of systemic racism, it is crucial to educate the new generations so they can be agents of change in this unjust world. Whether extremely privileged or extremely marginalized, everyone has a role and a purpose in the ecosystem of social change.

Lesson Plans

  1. Talking About Race and Privilege: This lesson plan from the National Association of School Psychologists is an excellent, comprehensive, and engaging way of teaching about race and privilege. It is designed to be accessible to all Middle and High School students with the learning objectives for students to be able to: 1. Define the concept of privilege, and 2. Identify and express examples of privilege in their lives or the world in which they live. An extremely detailed and well-informed lesson plan that can be tailored to any context and includes many different activities, examples, and additional resources. 
  2. Privilege Walk Lesson Plan: This activity is a classic introduction to the concept of privilege and is highly recommended by many as an accessible way for students to comprehend the idea in context of their own positionality. The lesson objective is to discuss the intersections of privileges and marginalizations in a way that is reflective, not confrontational. 
  3. Confronting White Privilege: This article contains detailed explanations of two teaching strategies empirically found to be most effective at engaging students and raising awareness without provoking guilt or anger. While guilt and anger are important emotions in processing questions of racial inequity, these teaching strategies are excellent starting points for educators who want to approach these topics with strategies that are proven to have worked with groups of students. 
  4. Privilege, Discrimination and Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System: This lesson plan for high schoolers has the learning objectives to: 1. Understand the concept of unearned privilege, 2. Examine issues of power and privilege and the consequences unearned privilege has on marginalized groups, and 3. Learn about racial disparities in the criminal justice system and reflect upon how white and people of color have different experiences with law enforcement. 

Articles

  1. Race Talk: Engaging Young People in Conversations about Race and Racism: This article from the Anti-Defamation League explains 9 concrete ways to engage students in anti-bias education while maintaining an empathetic and critical consciousness about the context of the classroom. 
  2. White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack: Peggy McIntosh begins this notable article by saying, “I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group.” This article helps explain how white privilege is a result of the system of white supremacy that gives all white people dominance at the cost of subordinating all other people. This article is a great introduction for students to the idea of white privilege, with many examples ranging from having your skin tone match the color of generic band-aids to feeling safe when going shopping. This article puts white privilege into the personal context and should lead into encouraging students to take actions to change these status quos that privilege some and marginalize others. 
  3. How Should I Talk About Race in My Mostly White Classroom?: This article is directed at teachers in predominantly white classrooms who wish to be agents of change in their own communities. 

Informational Sites

  1. Black Lives Matter at School:  An extensive compilation of anti-racist education resources. The first link on the Teaching Materials page is to the 2020 Black Lives Matter curriculum resource guide, a google drive filled with resources for different age groups and subject areas. Here you can access a multitude of resources and lesson plans centered on the 13 principles of Black Lives Matter. This form of education is active work to frame white privilege in the context of meaningful action, support, and allyship. 
  2. Understanding Race and Privilege: An article from the National Association of School Psychologists with detailed information and links to other relevant resources. The article includes a number of self-reflection questions that can be used with students or educators. There is also a section on talking to others about privilege that can be useful for approaching fellow educators about highlighting this material. 
  3. What is Systemic Racism?: These exceptional videos are excellent resources for comprehending the pervasive structural and systemic racism fully functioning in our society today. It is important to frame white privilege in the context of structural threats that white people don’t have to worry about. The videos cover the Wealth Gap, Employment, Housing Discrimination, Government Surveillance, Incarceration, Drug Arrests, Immigration Arrests, and Infant Mortality.

Conclusion

Teaching students about white privilege is a crucial foundation to critical awareness, agency, and allyship. Reflecting on personal positions and privileges in society allows students to see themselves as agents with a specific positionality in the country and in the classroom. Making space for new and equitable distributions of privilege can begin in the classroom. Starting with open acknowledgement of hidden systems of privilege and progressing to concrete ways those with privilege can work for social justice and equity will scaffold students in learning how to become agents of change in society. 

Additional Resources

  1. 10 Children’s Books that Help White Kids Understand What Children of Color Are Up Against: These 10 books are accessible to children of all ages and will help those with white privilege empathize with those who don’t. 
  2. TeachingForBlackLives.org: An exceptional new book directly addressing the question of how to educate in a way that empowers the ideology of Black Lives Matter. A highly recommended resource for teachers and educators. 
  3. Research Based Advice on Teaching Children Not to be Racist: This article from the Atlantic provides an excellent overview of essential concepts in educating children about racism while encouraging anti-racism. 
  4. Self-Care: It is important to keep in mind that learning about police brutality and living through moments of unrest can be mentally and emotionally taxing for students and teachers. Check out our page on teaching about self-care to find resources for helping students develop tools for taking care of themselves. Other great resources include The LoveLand Foundation and Black Emotional And Mental Health (BEAM) Collective.