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Transforming White Privilege

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Transforming White Privilege: A 21st Century Leadership Capacity


A Joint Project of The Center for Assessment and Policy Development (CAPD), MP Associates and World Trust Educational Services, funded by The W.K. Kellogg Foundation


The Transforming White Privilege (TWP) curriculum is designed to help current and emerging leaders from a variety of sectors better identify, talk about and intervene to address white privilege and its consequences.

The curriculum includes lessons plans, handouts, PowerPoint slides and video clips covering a number of key concepts, tools and strategies for change. For example, the curriculum helps groups explore dominant cultural assumptions and perspectives about what is considered normal, appropriate, desirable and/or valid. Dominant culture narratives or norms – e.g. what constitutes a “family,”’ who is considered dangerous, intelligent, acceptable and whose perspectives are valid – are codified in customs, laws, institutions, policies, and practices. They reinforce stereotypes and limit fair access in terms of who belongs inside and who remains outside circles of human concern (as the concept is used by john powell and others). In addition, cultural assumptions are part of what continue to advantage some groups and disadvantage others. And, even when those inequities are persistent and obvious, the history and current policies and practices that drive them often may not be. The deep investigation and chance to “work with” these ideas can help build participants’ capacity to identify, talk productively about and act to address white culture, white privilege and their consequences in their spheres of influence.


The curriculum is organized into a series of topic-specific learning modules, each 30 minutes to two hours in length. The full curriculum can be delivered over a single two-day workshop, 2 one-day workshops or in other configurations that work for a given program, keeping in mind the cumulative nature of the learning and design. The curriculum uses small and large group discussion and exercise, roleplay, videos, movement and other transformative learning strategies. Learn more about what is included in the TWP curriculum.

Major topics introduced, reinforced and “worked” over time include: …

  • Understanding how white privilege operates and is maintained within a system of inequity

  • How “whiteness” itself was created

  • Ways in which specific history, culture, laws and policies, economics and power helped to create and maintain a set of accumulated advantages for groups labeled “white” and a set of accumulating disadvantages for groups not considered “white” at various points in U.S. history

  • Tools for change, including: strategic questioning, entry points, mental checklists, framing

  • Processes for going within and for reaching across the group to build confidence and tap into the group’s individual and collective strengths, and their willingness to act for racial justice.


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To support leaders in better identifying, talking productively about and addressing white privilege and its consequences in their many different spheres of influence.

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We recognize that white privilege and white culture are contentious terms and difficult issues with which to grapple in many settings. We went into the development of the curriculum with a strong belief that the effort to grapple with them would be worth it for the participants, particularly in terms of seeing new entry points for positive change.

That is because most of our current laws, regulations, policies and practices in areas like housing, health-care, education and law enforcement were established, or justified, in part because of assumptions about what is normal, appropriate or desirable (see Dr. Khalil Muhammad on “Facing Our Racial Past”). These assumptions tend to reflect dominant cultural narratives or norms – for example, what constitutes a “family,”’ who is dangerous, which groups are deserving of societal support and which are not (e.g. the deserving and undeserving poor), etc.

Over time, the consequence of laws, regulations, policies and practices is a multigenerational system of inequity. This system reinforce stereotypes and access to organizational and system power. In addition, when those assumptions are codified into laws, system policies and organizational and community practices, they are part of what creates persistent advantages for some groups and persistent disadvantages for others (for example, via redlining; access to education via the G.I. bill, mandatory minimums drug-sentencing policies, etc.). And, even when those inequities are persistent and obvious, their underlying assumptions and the assumptions that maintain them may not be. We argue that understanding white privilege gives leaders another tool for cutting through this complex system, and thus, real and practical entry points for change.

Thus, we believe the capacities to identify, talk about and intervene around white privilege and its consequences are critical leadership capacities. We also believe they are useful capacities, especially for leaders working towards equitable outcomes at organizational, community and system levels.

The modules are also a deliberate effort to fill a gap. Based on a survey of leadership groups, we found that frank discussion of white privilege is often taboo, even in motivated groups working on reducing inequities. Leadership groups did not always feel confident about addressing white privilege, and they noted a lack of resources that they could embed in their training which could help them do that. The Transforming White Privilege modules were created specifically in response to that opportunity and need.


We assume that supporting leaders to be confident and skilled at identifying how white privilege operates will help them better understand root causes of racial inequities and entry points for change within their spheres of influence. We also assume they will gain confidence, tools and access to peer support, and the combination will help them take additional actions to redress inequities and towards racial and social justice.

For example, in the short or intermediate term, post-training, participants might:

  • Include an analysis as part of any decision-making process that considers assumptions that reflect, intentionally or unintentionally, dominant cultural norms, make those assumptions explicit and review and alter them, where appropriate;

  • Help others see patterns of accumulated advantages and disadvantages and ways they are codified in laws, policies, regulations and other system behaviors, and feel more confident in discussing root causes as part of seeking solutions;

  • Review organizational culture within their spheres of influence by incorporating a deeper understanding of white culture and white privilege, share that understanding with others, and make individual and collective changes that reflect equitable structural change

  • Feel motivated and accountable for their own continued learning around the concepts, analysis and practices explored in the training.



The TWP Curriculum is available at different price points for different organizational types. 

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