by Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN &
Sr. Anne-Louise Nadeau, SNDdeN
The Oxford Dictionary defines power as energy, the potential or right to control people or things. Privilege is defined as a special advantage granted only to a certain person or group beyond the advantage of most. With regards to racism, power as a noun is lethal when wedded to laws, systems, organizations, policies, practices and procedures which legitimize the control of groups of people. This kind of power is toxic when misused to bestow and claim rights and the privilege of immunity to whole groups of people, based merely on skin color. It is how we use both power and privilege which builds up or destroys the whole human community.
Those of us who benefit from and perpetuate the misuse of power and privilege are members of the white community—a reality and issue that we must struggle to come to grips with, since racism is our issue as a collective and not an issue only for communities of color. Privilege and power are the conscious and unconscious inheritance that we live and breathe on a daily basis. Because some of it is unconscious, many of us are not aware of its effects. Yet, when we do recognize it, or it is pointed out to us, we become defensive out of fear that we might be responsible (which we are). We do not want to recognize that responsibility since it would require us to change, leading to transformation and accountability to communities of color. So, we go along sabotaging ourselves from engaging in honest and healthy relationships with other white people, as well as with people of color…
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