Faces of Whiteness

Over the past week, I have had the opportunity to read more about the idea of Whiteness and White privilege. It has been thought-provoking, emotional, and challenging for me to sift through the ideas of multiple scholars as I wrestle with my own place in this world.

What a privilege it is to be able to sit in a classroom and read about White privilege. People of color must learn about White privilege (and by extension, their own disadvantage) by experiencing it every day of their lives.

Yet, here I am, trying to write something coherent and meaningful on an advocacy blog. What kind of backwards logic is this?

Don’t get me wrong; I think there is value in education about White privilege, and reading about it has been a formative and beneficial experience. I just want to point out that even in having the opportunity to sit and read about Whiteness—in discovering these ideas in my Junior year of college—I am experiencing the benefits of White privilege.


My classmates have already posted important and meaningful information about white privilege below: They have discussed their own privilege and described why this is an important step in dismantling it, they have defined White Privilege and discussed its implications, and they have offered encouragement that we can move forward through service learning and an embrace of the messiness of Whiteness.

To add to the discussion, I want to show you what I found the most enlightening in my readings:


Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 10.11.47 PM






This framework from John T. Warren and Kathy Hytten seeks to describe the multiple faces of whiteness. In simple terms, these are the possible ways for someone to respond when they come to understand their own White privilege. It aligns the reactions on two axes: How much you engage with or disengage from your own role in Whiteness and your tendency to seek out more information or rely on your personal understanding. The Critical Democrat, a balance of each, is the most beneficial place to be according to the authors.

This framework is helpful in a few ways. First and foremost, it helps my own reflection and understanding of self. I think that I tend toward a Torpefied face. I like to think, however, that I am not completely immobile. Rather, I struggle greatly with what I have learned, but I still find ways to act anyway (for instance, advocacy through this blog). My natural tendency, however, is certainly to be stunned and appalled at my own involvement in a racist system and not know the best way to fight it.

Secondly, this framework helps me identify and better understand those with whom I am having discussions about race. Anything to better understand the other person in a dialogue is helpful. If I can recognize that someone is coming from the perspective of The Cynic, I can better focus my discussion on the efficacy of action and the benefit of additional information.

Thirdly, this framework gives me a place to work towards. I think that, because my tendency is towards over-engagement with self, the kind of self-reflection required in writing blog posts is an important step for me in moving towards the Critical Democrat.

This, clearly, is just a start in trying to understand the ways to address and dismantle systemic racism and White privilege. However, this is where we must start–with conversation and dialogue. As DeRay McKesson (a founder of Black Lives Matter and Campaign Zero) tells Stephen Colbert:

DeRay gif






–R. Chase Dunn


One thought on “Faces of Whiteness

  1. I like your mention of the framework of the faces of whiteness because it is easy to see that if white privilege is even acknowledge, it is approached in pretty unproductive ways. I don’t like to think I am privileged, it makes me feel uncomfortable and I think as humans we turn away from anything that makes us feel bad, guilty, or uneasy so I like how you mention experiencing the benefits of white privilege while people of color learn about their disadvantage while living it everyday.

Join the Conversation - Leave comment(s)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s