How to recognize your privilege and responsibility as a white person

How to recognize your privilege and responsibility as a white person

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This past Tuesday, Radio Milwaukee hosted a virtual conversation called “Solidarity in Action” to create a space where white people can educate other community members about how to improve their work in solidarity with Black and Brown people.

The panel featured local leaders from different sectors talking about their continuous journey to betterment in the space of race, operating in solidarity with Black and Brown people, and how you can become active in your community.

The panelists include Jonathan Brostoff of the Wisconsin State Assembly, Stephanie Roades of SURJ MKE, Kirsten Helgeson of Just a Girl Inc., Dr. Stephanie Baran, an instructor of sociology, and Kyle Pfister of Ninjas for Health. The conversation was moderated by Renee Scampini, a PhD candidate at the UWM Urban Studies Program.

Panelists at Solidarity in Action

For some, having an in-depth conversation about race, acknowledging one’s inherent privilege and using it to dismantle white supremacy can be tough and awkward. However, it’s vital to step past the uncomfortable.

There was one question moderator Scampini asked that stood out to me: “What mistakes did you make and how did you learn from them?” Dr. Stephanie Baran said throughout her experience, a big hurdle was navigating and understanding her role in the movement.

“There’s a time where listening and reading is key,” said Baran. “That is something that I have learned over time. At the beginning of my learning, I would respond and I would try to be there as a voice. Now its, ‘Okay I see this as a problem, I see that people are on it. What do you need me to do?'”

Kyle Pfister adds that mistakes are unavoidable and it’s important to recognize mistakes and use them as lessons.

“The only thing I know for sure is that I am usually going to make mistakes and create harm because of the lens of whiteness that I see the world through,” said Pfister. “I learned to focus on how I react to when I am wrong or creating harm and try to de-center myself.”

Kirsten Helgeson said she learned how to motivate change with herself and her community by looking at it from a head, heart and hand perspective.

“The head piece is how you mentally build the rationale that can connect with people on moving things forward,” said Helgeson. “The heart is around emotionally connecting to people in a way that resonates with experience or situation deep within their heart to motivate them. It’s also about hands, teaching people how to use the information in their head and in their heart and transform that in community action in meaningful ways.”

Watch the full zoom conversation below and if you would like more resources to help broaden your perspective, visit our tools page.

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