System of White Supremacy and White Privilege

The New York Times reports that the term “white supremacy” was used fewer than 75 times in 2010, but nearly 700 times in 2020 alone (as of the article’s printing on Oct 17, 2020). In the past, the term construed extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazis. Now this term refers to a political and socio-economic system where white people enjoy structural advantages and rights that other racial and ethnic groups do not. Many white people are unaware that this system exists, which is one of its successes.

Peggy McIntosh’s seminal article “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” discusses the everydayness of unearned entitlements and advantages. White privilege includes powerful incentives for maintain [...]

Concepts and Analysis

AWARE-LA’s White Supremacy System Model
Alliance of White Anti-Racists Everywhere - Los Angeles
What is White Supremacy?
Elizabeth Martínez
SOA Watch
The Elephant in the Room, Part 3
Highlander Research and Education Center
The Ideology of White Supremacy: What Lies Beneath
Scot Nakagawa
We Fight the Right
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
Peggy McIntosh
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Just Stop It With the New-Age, Hands-Off Approach to Fighting Racism
Maia Niguel Hoskin, Ph.D.
Donald Trump Is Out. Are We Ready to Talk About How He Got In?
Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Atlantic
The White Left Needs to Embrace Black Leadership
Barbara Ransby
The Nation
“White Supremacy” Once Meant David Duke and the Klan. Now It Refers to Much More.
Michael Powell
The NY Times
Reckoning With White Supremacy: Five Fundamentals for White Folks
Lovey Cooper
Scalawag Magazine
The Disruption of White Supremacy
Mark Trahant
YES! Magazine
The Problem Is White Supremacy
Barbara Smith
Boston Globe
Accumulating Advantage: How is Health Impacted by Race and, Consequently, Class?
Unnatural Causes
Dreaming of a Self Beyond Whiteness and Isolation
john a. powell
Journal of Law and Policy
Fighting White Supremacy and White Privilege to Build a Human Rights Movement
Loretta Ross
Understanding and Dismantling Privilege
Flipping the Script: White Privilege and Community Building
M. Potapchuk, S. Leiderman, D. Bivens, and B. Major
CAPD; MP Associates
The Anatomy of White Guilt
D. Martin
Unitarian Universalist Association
The Subtle Linguistics of Polite White Supremacy
Yawo Brown
The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-Framing
Joe R. Feagin
What Is White Privilege?
Maggie Potapchuk
CAPD; MP Associates
What Is White Privilege?
Sharon Martinas
What’s Missing From “White Fragility”
Lauren Michele Jackson
White Fragility
Robin DiAngelo
International Journal of Critical Pedagogy
White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women’s Studies
Peggy McIntosh
Wellesley Centers for Women

History and Construction of Whiteness

History of White People in America: How White Became American
Room 608, Inc. and Independent Television Service (ITVS)
Homo Icarus: The Depreciating Value of Whiteness and the Place of Healing
Bayo Akomolafe
The Invention of Whiteness: The Long History of a Dangerous Idea
Robert P Baird
The Guardian
The White Republic and the Struggle for Racial Justice
Bob Wing
Organizing Upgrade
What is White Supremacy?
Elizabeth 'Betita' Martinez
Catalyst Project
White Identity in America Is Ideology, Not Biology. The History of “Whiteness” Proves It.
Nell Irvin Painter
NBC News
How White People Got Made
Quinn Norton
The Message
Seeing White podcast
John Biewen and Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika
Scene on Radio, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University
Understanding Whiteness
Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre
Where White Privilege Came From
Allan G. Johnson


On Whiteness
Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ)
What’s Up with White Women?
Ilsa Govan and Tilman Smith with Karena Hooks
Town Hall Seattle, Arts & Culture series
From White Fragility Graphic
Russell Nadel with Robin DiAngelo
White Too Long: How Racism Lives in the DNA of White Christianity in America Podcast
Robert P. Jones with Rev. Jim Wallis
A List of Privilege Lists
Alas! A Blog
Confronting Racism is Not About the Needs and Feelings of White People
Ijeoma Oluo
The Guardian
White Privilege: Let’s Talk - A Resource for Transformational Dialogue
United Church of Christ

Resources for White People

Unpacking the False Allyship of White Racial Justice Leaders
Anastasia Reesa Tomkin
Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ)
White Urgency to End Racism: Why Now?
Beth Berila
The Difference Between Allies and Co-Conspirators
Bettina Love
White Women Doing White Supremacy in Nonprofit Culture
Heather Laine Talley
Equity in the Center, Woke @ Work
The Promise: A Lesson in White Privilege
Phyllis Unterschuetz
The Race Story Rewrite Project
John Biewen The Long View, I: On Being White
Krista Tippett (host)
The On Being Project
Recommitting to Racial Justice: White People’s Work in the Days Ahead
Showing Up for Racial Justice
White Women: Our Role in Racial (In)Justice
Kathleen Osta
National Equity Project;
A Cultural Somatic Reader on Whiteness, Trauma, and Allyship
Tada Hozumi
Selfish Activist
A Word for White People, in Two Parts
adrienne maree brown
How White Managers Can Respond to Anti-Black Violence
Michael Kraus
Yale Insights
Performing Whiteness
Sarah Bellamy
The Paris Review
What If…White People Took Responsibility for Our Role in This Moment?
Kathleen Osta
National Equity Project;
What Is the Role for White People Working for Racial Justice in This Current Period?
A Joint Statement from the Organization for Black Struggle and the Anti-Racist Collective
Curriculum for White Americans to Educate Themselves on Race and Racism–from Ferguson to Charleston
Jon Greenberg
Citizenship and Social Justice
Dear White America
George Yancy
The NY Times
Detour-Spotting for White Anti-Racists
jona olsson
cultural bridges to justice (cbtj)
Developing a Positive White Identity
Unitarian Universalist Association
Discussion Guide for Towards the “Other America”: Anti-Racist Resources for White People Taking Action for Black Lives Matter
Chris Crass
Doing the Work: Unearthing Our Own White Privilege
Maggie Potapchuk
MP Associates
Finding Myself in the Story of Race
Debby Irving
TEDx Fenway
From White Racist to Anti-Racist: The Life-Long Journey
Tema Okun
Guidelines for Being Strong White Allies
Paul Kivel
Hey White People: A Kinda Awkward Note to America by #Ferguson Kids
Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible
Shakti Butler and Rick Butler
World Trust Educational Services
Opportunities for White People in the Fight for Racial Justice
Jonathan Osler
White Accomplices
Retaining Benefits, Avoiding Responsibility
Paul Kivel
Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ)
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)
Talking to Our People: SURJ Guide for Talking to White People in the Moment of Trump
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)

White Supremacy Culture

How White Supremacy Culture Shows up in our Families + Practices for How We Can Dismantle It
Amanda K Gross
Mistress Syndrome
Divorcing White Supremacy Culture
Tema Okun
White Women Doing White Supremacy in Nonprofit Culture
Heather Laine Talley
Tzedek Social Justice Fund
The Network Economic Effects of Whiteness
Brant T. Lee
American University Law Review
When White People Are Uncomfortable, Black People Are Silenced
Rachel Elizabeth Cargle
Harpers Bazaar
Decentering Whiteness
Jeff Hitchcock and Charley Flint
Center for the Study of White American Culture
Pushing Back Against Habits of White Supremacy During a Crisis
Kad Smith
CompassPoint Nonprofit Services

“One of the things we don’t ever say explicitly is that whiteness is a brand, and that everything in the culture moves towards creating concepts of whiteness that control the white imagination... We’re being shifted and trained, culturally and constantly. We think about it as blacks, or people of color, but white people are not used to thinking about it, because whiteness is equal to normality. So, for the first time I think we’re in a place where we can begin to think about what structures whiteness. What presumptions does the white imagination move forward with?”

~ Claudia Rankine, poet, Citizen: An American Lyric


Understanding White Supremacy Part 1: With Barbara Smith, Extinction Rebellion: Capital Region

Also in this section:
  • Racial Equity

  • Structural Racism

  • Internalized Racism

  • Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity

  • Systems Thinking

  • Theory

  • Racism

  • Decolonization Theory and Practice

  • Intersectionality



Anti-Racism is defined as the work of actively opposing racism by advocating for changes in political, economic, and social life. Anti-racism tends to be an individualized approach, and set up in opposition to individual racist behaviors and impacts.

SOURCE:  Race Forward, “Race Reporting Guide” (2015).

Related Resources:  Theory (scroll down alphabetically to the box for “Anti-Racism”)

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts

Critical Race Theory

The Critical Race Theory movement considers many of the same issues that conventional civil rights and ethnic studies take up, but places them in a broader perspective that includes economics, history, and even feelings and the unconscious. Unlike traditional civil rights, which embraces incrementalism and step by step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and principles of constitutional law.

SOURCE:  Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, NYU Press, 2001 (2nd ed. 2012, 3rd ed. 2017).

Related Resources:  Theory (scroll down alphabetically to the box for “Critical Race Theory”)

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts


  1. Decolonization may be defined as the active resistance against colonial powers, and a shifting of power towards political, economic, educational, cultural, psychic independence and power that originate from a colonized nation’s own indigenous culture. This process occurs politically and also applies to personal and societal psychic, cultural, political, agricultural, and educational deconstruction of colonial oppression.

  2. Per Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang: “Decolonization doesn’t have a synonym”; it is not a substitute for ‘human rights’ or ‘social justice’, though undoubtedly, they are connected in various ways. Decolonization demands an Indigenous framework and a centering of Indigenous land, Indigenous sovereignty, and Indigenous ways of thinking.


1. The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), “Glossary.”

2. Eric Ritskes, “What Is Decolonization and Why Does It Matter?

Related Resources:  Decolonization Theory and Practice

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts


Indigenous populations are composed of the existing descendants of the peoples who inhabited the present territory of a country wholly or partially at the time when persons of a different culture or ethnic origin arrived there from other parts of the world, overcame them and, by conquest, settlement, or other means, reduced them to a non-dominant or colonial condition; who today live more in conformity with their particular social, economic, and cultural customs and traditions than with the institutions of the country of which they now form part, under a State structure which incorporates mainly national, social, and cultural characteristics of other segments of the population which are predominant.

(Examples: Maori in territory now defined as New Zealand; Mexicans in territory now defined as Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma; Native American tribes in territory now defined as the United States.)

SOURCE:  United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (2010, page 9), originally presented in the preliminary report of the Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights, José Martínez Cobo (1972, page 10).

Related Resources:  Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity  (scroll down alphabetically to the box for “Indigeneity”)

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts

Internalized Racism

Internalized racism is the situation that occurs in a racist system when a racial group oppressed by racism supports the supremacy and dominance of the dominating group by maintaining or participating in the set of attitudes, behaviors, social structures, and ideologies that undergird the dominating group’s power. It involves four essential and interconnected elements:

  1. Decision-making - Due to racism, people of color do not have the ultimate decision-making power over the decisions that control our lives and resources. As a result, on a personal level, we may think white people know more about what needs to be done for us than we do. On an interpersonal level, we may not support each other’s authority and power – especially if it is in opposition to the dominating racial group. Structurally, there is a system in place that rewards people of color who support white supremacy and power and coerces or punishes those who do not.

  2. Resources - Resources, broadly defined (e.g. money, time, etc), are unequally in the hands and under the control of white people. Internalized racism is the system in place that makes it difficult for people of color to get access to resources for our own communities and to control the resources of our community. We learn to believe that serving and using resources for ourselves and our particular community is not serving “everybody.”

  3. Standards - With internalized racism, the standards for what is appropriate or “normal” that people of color accept are white people’s or Eurocentric standards. We have difficulty naming, communicating and living up to our deepest standards and values, and holding ourselves and each other accountable to them.

  4. Naming the problem - There is a system in place that misnames the problem of racism as a problem of or caused by people of color and blames the disease – emotional, economic, political, etc. – on people of color. With internalized racism, people of color might, for example, believe we are more violent than white people and not consider state-sanctioned political violence or the hidden or privatized violence of white people and the systems they put in place and support.

SOURCE:  Donna Bivens, Internalized Racism: A Definition (Women’s Theological Center, 1995).

Related Resources:  Internalized Racism

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts


  1. Exposing [one’s] multiple identities can help clarify the ways in which a person can simultaneously experience privilege and oppression. For example, a Black woman in America does not experience gender inequalities in exactly the same way as a white woman, nor racial oppression identical to that experienced by a Black man. Each race and gender intersection produces a qualitatively distinct life.

  2. Per Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw: Intersectionality is simply a prism to see the interactive effects of various forms of discrimination and disempowerment. It looks at the way that racism, many times, interacts with patriarchy, heterosexism, classism, xenophobia — seeing that the overlapping vulnerabilities created by these systems actually create specific kinds of challenges. “Intersectionality 102,” then, is to say that these distinct problems create challenges for movements that are only organized around these problems as separate and individual. So when racial justice doesn’t have a critique of patriarchy and homophobia, the particular way that racism is experienced and exacerbated by heterosexism, classism etc., falls outside of our political organizing. It means that significant numbers of people in our communities aren’t being served by social justice frames because they don’t address the particular ways that they’re experiencing discrimination.


1. Intergroup Resources, “Intersectionality” (2012).

2. Otamere Guobadia, “Kimberlé Crenshaw and Lady Phyll Talk Intersectionality, Solidarity, and Self-Care” (2018).

Related Resources:  Intersectionality

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts

Racial Equity

  1. Racial equity is the condition that would be achieved if one's racial identity no longer predicted, in a statistical sense, how one fares. When we use the term, we are thinking about racial equity as one part of racial justice, and thus we also include work to address root causes of inequities, not just their manifestation. This includes elimination of policies, practices, attitudes, and cultural messages that reinforce differential outcomes by race or that fail to eliminate them.

  2. “A mindset and method for solving problems that have endured for generations, seem intractable, harm people and communities of color most acutely, and ultimately affect people of all races. This will require seeing differently, thinking differently, and doing the work differently. Racial equity is about results that make a difference and last.”


  1. Center for Assessment and Policy Development.

  2. OpenSource Leadership Strategies.

Related Resources:  Racial Equity

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts

Racial Identity Development Theory

Racial Identity Development Theory discusses how people in various racial groups and with multiracial identities form their particular self-concept. It also describes some typical phases in remaking that identity based on learning and awareness of systems of privilege and structural racism, cultural, and historical meanings attached to racial categories, and factors operating in the larger socio-historical level (e.g. globalization, technology, immigration, and increasing multiracial population).

SOURCE:  New Perspectives on Racial Identity Development: Integrating Emerging Frameworks, edited by Charmaine L. Wijeyesinghe and Bailey W. Jackson (NYU Press, 2012).

Related Resources:  Theory (scroll down alphabetically to the box for “Racial Identity Development Theory”)

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts

Racial Justice

  1. The systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all. Racial justice—or racial equity—goes beyond “anti-racism.” It is not just the absence of discrimination and inequities, but also the presence of deliberate systems and supports to achieve and sustain racial equity through proactive and preventative measures.

  2. Operationalizing racial justice means reimagining and co-creating a just and liberated world and includes:

  • understanding the history of racism and the system of white supremacy and addressing past harms,

  • working in right relationship and accountability in an ecosystem (an issue, sector, or community ecosystem) for collective change,

  • implementing interventions that use an intersectional analysis and that impact multiple systems,

  • centering Blackness and building community, cultural, economic, and political power of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC), and

  • applying the practice of love along with disruption and resistance to the status quo.


  1. Race Forward, “Race Reporting Guide” (2015).

  2. Maggie Potapchuk, “Operationalizing Racial Justice in Non-Profit Organizations” (MP Associates, 2020). This definition is based on and expanded from the one described in Rinku Sen and Lori Villarosa, “Grantmaking with a Racial Justice Lens: A Practical Guide” (Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity, 2019).

Settler Colonialism

Settler colonialism refers to colonization in which colonizing powers create permanent or long-term settlement on land owned and/or occupied by other peoples, often by force. This contrasts with colonialism where colonizer’s focus only on extracting resources back to their countries of origin, for example. Settler Colonialism typically includes oppressive governance, dismantling of indigenous cultural forms, and enforcement of codes of superiority (such as white supremacy). Examples include white European occupations of land in what is now the United States, Spain’s settlements throughout Latin America, and the Apartheid government established by White Europeans in South Africa.

Per Dina Gillio-Whitaker, “Settler Colonialism may be said to be a structure, not an historic event, whose endgame is always the elimination of the Natives in order to acquire their land, which it does in countless seen and unseen ways. These techniques are woven throughout the US’s national discourse at all levels of society. Manifest Destiny—that is, the US’s divinely sanctioned inevitability—is like a computer program always operating unnoticeably in the background. In this program, genocide and land dispossession are continually both justified and denied.”

SOURCE:  Dina Gilio-Whitaker, “Settler Fragility: Why Settler Privilege Is So Hard to Talk About” (2018).

Related Resources:  Diaspora and Colonization (scroll down alphabetically to the box for “Neo-Colonialism and Settler Colonialism”)

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / History of Racism and Movements

Targeted Universalism

Targeted universalism means setting universal goals pursued by targeted processes to achieve those goals. Within a targeted universalism framework, universal goals are established for all groups concerned. The strategies developed to achieve those goals are targeted, based upon how different groups are situated within structures, culture, and across geographies to obtain the universal goal. Targeted universalism is goal oriented, and the processes are directed in service of the explicit, universal goal.

SOURCE:  Targeted Universalism: Policy & Practice – A Primer by john a. powell, Stephen Menendian, and Wendy Ake (Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, 2019).

Related Resources:  Theory (scroll down alphabetically to the box for “Targeted Universalism”)

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts

White Privilege

1. Refers to the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white. Generally white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it.

2. Structural White Privilege: A system of white domination that creates and maintains belief systems that make current racial advantages and disadvantages seem normal. The system includes powerful incentives for maintaining white privilege and its consequences, and powerful negative consequences for trying to interrupt white privilege or reduce its consequences in meaningful ways. The system includes internal and external manifestations at the individual, interpersonal, cultural and institutional levels. 

The accumulated and interrelated advantages and disadvantages of white privilege that are reflected in racial/ethnic inequities in life-expectancy and other health outcomes, income and wealth, and other outcomes, in part through different access to opportunities and resources. These differences are maintained in part by denying that these advantages and disadvantages exist at the structural, institutional, cultural, interpersonal, and individual levels and by refusing to redress them or eliminate the systems, policies, practices, cultural norms, and other behaviors and assumptions that maintain them.

Interpersonal White Privilege: Behavior between people that consciously or unconsciously reflects white superiority or entitlement.

Cultural White Privilege: A set of dominant cultural assumptions about what is good, normal or appropriate that reflects Western European white world views and dismisses or demonizes other world views.

Institutional White Privilege: Policies, practices and behaviors of institutions—such as schools, banks, non-profits or the Supreme Court—that have the effect of maintaining or increasing accumulated advantages for those groups currently defined as white, and maintaining or increasing disadvantages for those racial or ethnic groups not defined as white. The ability of institutions to survive and thrive even when their policies, practices and behaviors maintain, expand or fail to redress accumulated disadvantages and/or inequitable outcomes for people of color.


  1. Peggy McIntosh, “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspon­dences Through Work in Women Studies” (1988).

  2. Transforming White Privilege: A 21st Century Leadership Capacity, CAPD, MP Associates, World Trust Educational Services (2012).

Related Resources:  System of White Supremacy and White Privilege

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts