- Understanding White Privilege: Creating Pathways to Authentic Relationships Across Raceby Frances E. Kendall
Frances Kendall life’s work has focused on unpacking her own socialized racism through critical self-reflection, examining White privilege on individual and systemic levels, and helping institutions of higher education become more equitable. Kendall has become a sought after national consultant, facilitator, speaker, and trainer on issues of critical Whiteness, White privilege, and systems of White supremacy in institutions of higher education. In the second edition of her book, Understanding White Privilege: Creating Pathways to Authentic Relationships Across Race, Kendall shares her knowledge and wisdom accumulated from this life’s work through personal narrative, theoretical and conceptual foundations, and numerous examples of challenges and effective strategies for critically examining the role of Whiteness in the lives of White people and for challenging systems of White supremacy that affect us all.
The first four chapters provide foundational concepts of White privilege explained [End Page 205]in thorough yet accessible writing. In the opening chapter, Kendall begins with a searing personal narrative of socialization, racism, growth, liberation, struggle, and pain through transformative moments in her life as a White person. This deeply personal narrative sets the tone for the rest of the book by being honest without being self-congratulatory or self-deprecating. Next, she examines why White people should critically examine Whiteness by explaining the cost of systems of White supremacy. Kendall explains the costs of systems of White supremacy for both people of color and White people at multiple levels of analysis from the global to the organizational to the individual elements of psychological, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
In chapter 3, Kendall turns to what it means to be White by looking at the social construction of race, the systemic nature of racism, and a sharp examination of how White supremacy is codified in the United States Constitution, court decisions, laws, and public policy. In chapter 4, she defines White privilege and outlines the dynamics of White privilege with data, current events, and personal examples. Kendall then identifies common areas of pushback for those new to or resistant to discussing White privilege. Her strategies focus on responding to resistance in ways that invite greater dialogue, critical self-reflection and understanding without judgment, condemnation, or coddling. Her emphasis on clear and direct personal accountability without shaming is a wonderful model for effective social justice education to address oppression broadly.
The next six chapters apply these foundational concepts to more specific topics related to the intersections of social identities and the intellectual and emotional challenges of unpacking White privilege, engaging in authentic relationships across race, and moving toward change. A new addition in this second edition is the fifth chapter entitled, “How White Women Reinforce the Supremacy of Whiteness.” Kendall examines the intersections of gender and race as well as the simultaneous experience of dominance and subordination. Her exploration of ways that White women perpetuate racism is as courageous as her suggestions are helpful.
In chapter 6, Kendall dissects various “barriers to clarity” for White people by troubling the notions of colorblindness, viewing race as relational and not also systemic, the concept of meritocracy, and the ways well-meaning White people perpetuate and are complicit with racism. In chapter 7, Kendall cautiously moves to ways that those with an awareness of White privilege can move to taking responsibility and action through deep listening, working through guilt, compassion, examining access to institutional White privilege, and keeping Whiteness explicit. In the next chapter, she shares the challenges to and power of engaging in authentic relationship building across race. In chapter 9, also a new addition in this volume, she discusses the key role of explicitly naming Whiteness in order for White people to address organizational and systemic racism.
In her final chapter, Kendall provides a brilliant and deep analysis of what it means to be an ally, ways aspiring allies fall short, and steps to working in partnership as an ally. She begins by raising the stakes on...