Cracking Open White Identity Towards Transformation by The Canadian Ecumenical Anti-Racism Network

Mixed Media
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In a society affected by racism, identity is inevitably wrapped up with implications of power and privilege or the lack thereof. And those in a society’s dominant group are often oblivious to that fact. This book is a tool that helps us “crack open” the power and privilege that surrounds white identity in North America.

Written primarily for a Canadian audience (in both in English and French), but also applicable to Americans, Cracking Open is a collection of personal essays by an ecumenical cast of primarily white Christian writers, including some from the CRC, examining their own journeys in discovering white privilege. These are accompanied by biblical reflections and learning activities, making this book suitable for church workshops and study groups. Copies can be ordered from the Canadian Council of Churches website. (Canadian Council of Churches)

About the Author

Shiao Chong is editor-in-chief of The Banner. He attends Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Toronto, Ont.

Shiao Chong es el redactor jefe de The Banner. El asiste a Iglesia Comunidad Cristiana Reformada en Toronto, Ont. 

시아오 총은 더 배너 (The Banner)의 편집장이다. 온타리오 주 토론토의 펠로우쉽 CRC에 출석한다.

You can follow him @shiaochong (Twitter) and @3dchristianity (Facebook).  

See comments (6)


   For some reason I am able to see clearly the privledges that I have experienced growing up white. It would be a game changer if all whites had this perspective and it sounds like this book would go a long way towards bringing that along. But getting those of us who have 'hit the lottery' to read such a book seems like it would be a hard sell. I am glad the CRC was represented in such a book.

Kevin: What might those privileges have been that you say you see clearly?  I can see the privileges I had on account of being healthy, on account of having a reasonable capable mind and body, on account of having lots of experience "working hard" growing up, but I don't how my life's journey would have been "less prvileged" had my race been other than what it is.  I certainly don't see my being born white was "hit[ting] the lottery" as you say.  If it was, the lottery sure wasn't paying much back then.

I'm not saying I know you didn't have "white privilege," because you have lived a different life than I have.  But I'm wondering what privileges you perceive yourself to have had.  You suggest "all whites" have had privileged lives, but maybe you are just projecting on "all whites" the privilege you have had.  Perhaps some white people have "white privilege" and some don't.  Perhaps some who are other than white have privileges because of their race (e.g., Barak Obama), and some don't.

   The fact that you highlighted "working hard" in your responce tells me where you are coming from Doug. Perhaps I'm deluding myself, but I imagine if you polled every white American & asked if they had the choice of being born black or white.....And what if they could choose the race of their children & grandchildren, white or black? Probably best we agree to disagree.  

Kevin: Your response neither responds to what I had said in my post nor takes up my challenge of identifying the particulars of your claim.  It seems to me that your wanting to "agree to disagree" really means you want to avoid identifying the particulars of your claim.

I do suppose that most white parents would want their children to be white.  But so what.  My guess is that most Chinese parents want their children to be Chinese.  Etc. 

Of course, you aren't the only person in the world who wants to claim that all whites live a privileged life because they are white (or that all non-whites live an unprivileged life).  I find such claims breathtakingly simplistic at best, racist at worst.  I also find that the people who make such claims rarely stick around to defend them with particulars.  I think society is damaged rather badly when too many make these sweeping, overgeneralized claims.  To the extent such claims continue to be made, we guarantee that racism -- or claims of it -- will be a unnecessary divider in our society in perpetuity.

 Thanks Doug. Perhaps they rarely stick around when bandying this topic with you. I sense that 10, 20, 50 "particulars" wouldn't change your stance that being born white lends itself to privlidges not readily available to others. I do agree that most Chinese parents would likely want their children to be Chinese, but I guess I had in mind the black experience. And if we were to ask blacks if they could go back in time, would they feel an 'advantage' to having been born white, or if they could choose the race of their children, grandchildren, ....And the reasons for their answer would be (among many others), numerous, simplistic, complex, racist, challanging, and convicting.  

I'm not thinking either of us will change either one's stance, but this conversation is good I think -- assuming we have it -- because it is conversation about an important issue, which you seem not to really want to discuss after suggesting that you are one of the few whites who "get it" about the privilege all white supposedly have.

Certainly, if we "go back in time" and confine our discussions to those who were then black and in the US (thus slaves), most if not all blacks (slaves or free) would have had their children born white (not slaves or associated with slaves), but your claims suggests history does not move.  In fact, history does move.

Once upon a time (16th Century), many of those of the Reformed faith in the Netherlands were being burned alive, or killed first and then burned after dead.  The perpetrators were the Roman Catholic Church and Spain.  And I suspect these killings caused quite a diminishment in privilege for those killed and quite an increase in privilege for those who killed (and took property from the dead).  But here too, history moves.  Still, I suspect few ancestors of those victims regard now to be the same as then.

Certainly, racism still exists -- but it always will to some degree.  But beyond that, I would suggest it exists as much among "blacks" as it does among "whites." It exists among all races as well, generally speaking, which is not to say anyone in particular is a racist (regardless of his/her race), or even that "most" within any race group is racist.  Nor is it to say that anyone of a particular race is privileged, or unprivileged.

I would repeat my invitation to you to describe exactly how you believe you have lived a privileged life because you are white.  Maybe you have.  I think some whites are in fact the specific and direct beneficiaries of great wealth produced from slavery.  It could be rationally argued in those cases that they now live a privileged life because of that slavery (which in turn is specifically related to their race and the race of their ancestors).  But lots and lots and lots and lots of whites don't fit that description, even remotely.  Again, history moves.  Even in the days of slavery in the US, not all whites lived a privileged life (although close to all blacks in the US lived an unprivileged life).  But then history moved.

To now say (in 2014) that all whites are "privileged" and all blacks (or other races) "underprivileged" is, well, a claim based in racism, that is, the claim manifests an animus against certain persons exclusively on account of their race.