“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) is a group of six white scholar/practitioners that engages in research and learning about white supremacist consciousness and white identity. By using a group name, we affirm our belief that knowledge construction is fundamentally a collaborative process. 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.
Cooperative Inquiry: When our group began meeting in 1998, we used Cooperative Inquiry (CI) to help us engage our inquiry 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. Based on multiple cycles of action and reflection, the method uses multiple ways of knowing and employs systematic validity procedures (European-American Collaborative Challenging Whiteness, 2002; Heron, 1996).
IInquiry Purpose: We want to develop our understanding about what it means to be a member of the dominant group in society and to translate our expanded understanding into new behavior that can help us be more effective in taking action for social change and racial justice. We continue to meet monthly because we came to realize that learning about white supremacist consciousness is a process that is never complete. Being in inquiry about white privilege, racism, and our own white supremacist consciousness is an ongoing practice. Ultimately, we seek to make the world a more just and loving place.
Inquiry Outcomes: Our experience indicates that 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 that often accompanies our consciousness of white privilege and racism. Increased compassion for self and others helps us create space in which we can continue challenging our racism as we strive to become better allies for people of color. We have presented papers and conducted workshops at conferences across the country.
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.
We seek to make the world a more just and loving place. Thank you for joining us in our inquiry.
The Collaborative can be reached at: eccw [at] iconoclastic [dot] net