European-American Collaborative Challenging Whiteness

“It is both a practical and moral imperative that citizens learn to recognize the limitations of meaning perspectives that assume the universality and superiority of White norms and practices… As a matter of social justice, White people's limited frames of reference ought not to absorb so much time when they occupy public spaces with people of color.” (ECCW, 2000).

The European-American Collaborative Challenging Whiteness (ECCW) engages in research and learning about White Supremacist Consciousness and White identity. Collective authorship under one name reflects our understanding of the way knowledge is constructed. We came together originally through a cultural consciousness project at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco; current members are Carole Barlas, Elizabeth Kasl, Alec MacLeod, Doug Paxton, Penny Rosenwasser, and Linda Sartor.

Initial Inquiry Purpose: to develop our understanding about what it means to be a member of the dominant group in society and to translate our growing understanding and expanded awareness into new behavior and action for social change. We have been meeting together for 11 years because we see learning about being white, and working to address racism in ourselves, as an ongoing practice.

Inquiry Outcomes: We see our communications with other White people about racism are more effective than they were in the past. We have also noticed a growing sense of community that alleviates the isolation, despair and guilt we have often associated with challenging our racism. Increased compassion for self and others has helped us create space to continue challenging our racism. We also strive to become better allies for People of Color.  We have presented numerous papers and presentations at conferences across the country.

Cooperative Inquiry: When our group began meeting in 1998, we chose Cooperative Inquiry (CI) to help us engage with our subject and each other. CI is an action research strategy that small groups of people use to guide themselves in learning from their personal experience about a topic of mutual interest. The method is based on multiple cycles of action and reflection, using multiple ways of knowing, and employs systematic validity procedures (European American Collaborative Challenging Whiteness, 2002; Heron, 1996). CI focuses learners on their own lived experience in a participatory and democratic manner.

What We Are Learning: We use the term "White supremacist consciousness" not to refer to a group of people, but to a system of thought. White supremacist consciousness describes a way of thinking that takes for granted the legitimacy of an American society dominated by White norms and values. In other words, White norms and values are normalized, thus making their supremacy over other groups' norms and values implicit.  It is this normalization that maintains the institutionalization of privilege based on race. We learned about this highly charged phrase from people of Color, drawn from the discourse of Critical Race Theory (Delgado, 1995). As critical race discourse observes, many in our society fail to understand that racism is the institutionalization of privilege; it is not just a manifestation of prejudiced attitudes by individuals. When well-intentioned White people see themselves as "not prejudiced" they often assume they are also "not racist" because they are examining their personal attitudes instead of the way in which they participate in unjust distributions of power and privilege based on race.

Thank you for joining us in our inquiry.

The Collaborative can be reached at: eccw [at] iconoclastic [dot] net