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White Privilege Role-Play Activity
This role-play scenario can be a tool to help foundation leaders begin to explore issue...
The Characters
Person 1: _____________________________________. African American. I am the Director of
Career Development ...
Script
Person 2: OK, let’s talk about the vision statement for this collective impact initiative. I
think we should basica...
Person 3: I understand what you’re saying, but right now we are tasked with framing a
broad vision for our collective impa...
Person 1: Listen, the people who can benefit from this initiative the most are precisely the
folks who were not consulted ...
Manifestations of White Privilege
• Dominating conversations is an unconscious behavior often resulting from socialization...
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White Privilege Role-Play Activity for Foundations

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This role-play scenario can be a tool to help foundation leaders begin to explore issues of white privilege, internalized bias, and racial equity as part of a broader conversation on making collective impact authentic, inclusive, and equity-focused. It can be used with other tools and resources to build a deeper level of understanding of how those issues often play out in collective impact initiatives.

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White Privilege Role-Play Activity for Foundations

  1. 1. White Privilege Role-Play Activity This role-play scenario can be a tool to help foundation leaders begin to explore issues of white privilege, internalized bias, and racial equity as part of a broader conversation on making collective impact authentic, inclusive, and equity-focused. It can be used with other tools and resources to build a deeper level of understanding of how those issues often play out in collective impact initiatives. Context of the scenario: • Partners for Community Change or PCC is a collective impact initiative that involves 20 private sector, government, and nonprofit partners in a diverse medium-sized city and county with a focus on workforce/skills and job development and placement. • A key “partner” in the initiative is the Making Good Progress Foundation (“the Foundation”), a predominantly white-led and managed private foundation that is committed to supporting key projects of the initiative. • The ten-member Steering Council of PCC consists mostly of the same folks who have operated and funded job-skills development and training programs in the city over the past twenty years—the VP for Community Relations at the Foundation, a Special Aide to the Mayor, the head of the county’s Labor Department, a representative from the local community and technical college, and representatives of five of the medium-sized and large businesses and corporations in the state, most of which are not based in the city. • The backbone organization for the initiative—Community Development Coalition— serves on and Chairs the Steering Council.
  2. 2. The Characters Person 1: _____________________________________. African American. I am the Director of Career Development and Job Placement at the Community-Technical College. I’m new to the city but very connected to the community since most of the students are residents in the city and are people of color and/or recent arrivals. I am suspicious of the initiative because it is led mostly by whites and the vision and agenda of the group is being framed by the same power brokers. Person 2: _________________________________________. Latino/Hispanic. I am perceived by some as a “White Hispanic” and I don’t speak much Spanish. I’m the Coordinator of PCC and am the Executive Director of the Community Development Coalition (CDC), an influential community action agency that has credibility and strong ties with the Foundation and the other power brokers in the PCC Council. The CDC has received numerous grants from the Foundation. But several informal community leaders in the African American, Latino, and immigrant and refugee communities have been at odds with me on a number of key issues. Some call me a “povertycrat” who “dances to the tune of those with money.” Person 3: ________________________________________. White. I’m the VP for Community Relations at the Foundation. I have power and influence within the Foundation in areas of strategic planning as well as grant-making and am regarded as an “expert” on “the community.” I used to work for CDC many years earlier and have strong connections with power brokers in the city and county. I claim to know the community well because of my many years at CDC. However, I live in a suburban gated community outside the city limits. I perceive Person 2 as “a White Hispanic” and as someone who is well-educated and knows her/his stuff. Person 4: ________________________________________. White. I am a VP for Community Affairs at one of the large corporations in the state that does most of its business in an adjacent, predominantly white county. I see this collective impact effort as an opportunity for the company to establish a base of operations in the county and to elicit tax and other benefits as a way to leverage corporate expansion goals. Person 5: __________________________________________. White. I am the Director of the County Department of Labor. I’m not very familiar with the city and have connections mostly with the corporate sector in the county. I have strong job development experience but lack experience working with communities of color and/or recent immigrants. I have access to data that the initiative needs but have noticed that there is little data on living conditions, educational level, job experience, employment trends, and skill levels of people of color in the city, especially new arrivals. The scene: Five members of the Steering Council are tasked with framing a common vision for a job skills, development, and placement collective impact effort. Only half of the members of the Council are present. Only two of the four people of color in the Council are in attendance.
  3. 3. Script Person 2: OK, let’s talk about the vision statement for this collective impact initiative. I think we should basically draw from the report Angie put together on the “stakeholders meetings” held last week around town. What do folks think? Person 1: I would like to start by voicing my concern on the fact that most of the people at the meeting I attended were the usual folks you invite to your so-called “stakeholders meetings.” Many folks I know in that community, including many of the students I counsel at the college, were neither consulted nor invited to attend. Person 2: [IN A DEFENSIVE AND LOUDER TONE OF VOICE] - Your concern is noted, but I have worked in that community much longer than you have, and if a few people were not invited that does not mean that there was no community voice. Person 1: [IN A LOUDER TONE OF VOICE] – It is not just about being invited it is also about being consulted! Person 3: Folks, let’s keep our calm! What exactly are you trying to say? How does that relate to our vision statement? Person 1: What I’m saying is that some of the key challenges that community faces like transportation, housing, and support services were not mentioned once at the meeting. Also, nobody mentioned issues of language, culture and immigrant status. Most of those who attended were English-language proficient; but they don’t reflect the makeup of that community. Person 3: I understand what you’re saying, but that meeting was about ensuring that we could get folks in the community to apply for the programs. We were there to tell them about this initiative and how they can benefit from it. Person 2: That is correct, and we heard from some folks at the meeting and they would have shared the concerns you mentioned if those were really that important to them. Why didn’t you raise the issues? Person 1: Look, I just think that not addressing those issues will determine whether those folks can take full advantage of these programs. We can’t assume that they have a car, and some may have to take 3 buses to get to the trainings let alone their new jobs after placement. They can’t afford to move out of the neighborhood if these [HAND SIGNALING “ “] “opportunities” are an hour’s drive away, outside the city.
  4. 4. Person 3: I understand what you’re saying, but right now we are tasked with framing a broad vision for our collective impact effort. We can always include that later after we do some more data gathering and talk to other folks. Person 1: Listen, many of the students I have talked to about this initiative tell me that CDC has done a poor job in the neighborhood and that it needs to address those issues. Otherwise we will have dismal participation and completion rates and more distrust in the community. Person 2: I don’t want to hear about that. That is your opinion; and, obviously, you have convinced others to agree with you on that. As for the ESL classes, that is the responsibility of the Adult Education Office. And I can’t use the CDC vans to transport those people because it would cost me a lot of money. Person 4: OK, this is all good conversation, but let me say that this is precisely why many of us in the business community hesitate to be part of these kinds of efforts. I don’t get why those community folks want everything handed down to them on a silver platter. They don’t seem to want to move up in the world and take the bull by the horns, if you know what I mean. Person 1: All I’m saying is that we need to be more intentional about reaching out to everyone in that community who will be impacted by the initiative. We need to make sure that their opinions are heard—the many new residents in that neighborhood who CDC has not reached out to in years! Person 2: Hey, I’ve tried and they don’t attend my meetings; what else can I do? Maybe you should have gone there last week and rounded them up so that they would attend the meeting. If they cared so much about ESL classes, transportation, and babysitting, why were they not there? Person 1: Because you did not think that they would attend and never reached out to them! Because they can’t afford babysitting, don’t have cars, and could not attend the meeting at the time YOU decided it would be most convenient for them. Person 4: OK, if you both can’t decide how to handle that situation, I don’t have time for this. Let’s agree that this initiative will benefit those who really want to be a part of it. Besides, we need more information, more data before we can invest in transportation and other expenses that we may not actually need to spend money on.
  5. 5. Person 1: Listen, the people who can benefit from this initiative the most are precisely the folks who were not consulted and invited to the meeting. It is not that they don’t care. Person 3: Very well, we really have to get to work on the vision statement. So I’ll ask my boss at the Foundation to allocate $20,000 for a survey to elicit ideas and concerns from those folks, and maybe you can help in that effort. Maybe the County Labor Department office can take on that research. What do you think? Person 5: We actually have very little information on that neighborhood since many of the residents are fairly new arrivals and don’t fill out CPS and Census surveys. There is a lot of moving going on, and we have no way of knowing who actually lives there. I’m going to need more than $20,000. Maybe CDC should handle the survey and research; after all they’re based in that community. Person 1: Look, this is not that complicated: all you need to do is to hold community dialogues at the churches, schools, library, the college, anywhere, and get the pastors, principals and informal leaders to reach out to the people there. Provide some food, transportation, babysitting, and translators. If we are going to write this vision statement, we need to emphasize and show with our deeds that community voice and engagement are for real and not just talk. Actions speak louder than words. Person 2: I don’t have a problem with that, but don’t come here blaming me and CDC because you are new to the city and don’t know the history behind that neighborhood. Sure, I can handle the research if you get me the grant money to do it. But that research is going to show what I already know; remember that needs assessment we did with the Foundation five years ago? Oh, yes, I forgot—you were not a resident here back then! Person 3: I agree, let’s not question everyone’s good intentions here, and let’s focus on real solutions. I’ll get on it right away to get the money we need for the survey and research. Let’s adjourn and schedule another meeting to draft the vision statement before the next meeting of the Steering Council. Person 2: That sounds like a plan! Do I hear a vote to adjourn? All in favor say Aye….OK, this meeting is adjourned. [PERSON 1 LEAVES THE ROOM SHAKING HER HEAD.] Person 3: I guess we know who the trouble-maker in this Council is going to be! [THE OTHERS NOD THEIR HEADS IN THE AFFIRMATIVE.]
  6. 6. Manifestations of White Privilege • Dominating conversations is an unconscious behavior often resulting from socialization that teaches white people that their opinions and voice are more valuable than those of people of color. • Reframing or invalidating the experience and perceptions of people of color –i.e. “That wasn’t racism, Mr. Wilson is like that with everyone,” or, “When I go shopping I’m followed too,” or, “I know Mr. Wilson pretty well and I just don’t think that’s what he meant.” • Believing that logic, reasoning and linear thinking do not involve an emotional connection to the issue. For some people the anger, coupled with stereotypes of black men being dangerous, prevents them from seeing the logic. Implicit bias plays out in this fashion. • Valuing the product over the process. This happens most often when a conversation challenges those with privilege to look deep within themselves for their biases and privilege and their response is “Why can’t we just move on,” or, “We keep talking about it but I need strategies,” or, “how does that relate to our task or agenda” By asking to move on to strategies, those with privilege avoid the difficult personal work involved in acknowledging, coming to terms with, and consciously counteracting their own biases and ignorance of some community issues. Avoidance is a white privilege mechanism. • Agenda-setting without the voices of people of color. If the agenda was not set by a person of color, her/his voice is not made part of the discussion. • Claiming to know and emphasizing the individual and personal attitudes of people of color and ignoring how systemic factors and power and privilege “colors” how relationships develop and evolve. • Ignoring or glossing over the particular historical and cultural circumstances of different groups of color in a community and focusing too much on the economic and the expedient. • Always knowing who “the expert” is. White privilege perpetuates itself by giving credence only to “white-dominated” institutions, scholars, and think-tanks.

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