For a New Year’s Resolution Centered on Awareness, Accept ACUI’s White Privilege Challenge

New Years’ resolutions are often about bettering oneself in superficial ways — trimming your waistline, growing your savings account, or organizing your personal space. Maybe you’ve pursued such goals in the past or will halfheartedly attempt to do so again this year.

But if you’re a white or white-passing individual who aims to think a little bigger, 2022 presents a profoundly humbling opportunity for positive cultural change: ACUI’s White Privilege Challenge. It’s an on-demand chance to open your mind to the unequal structural power that you likely enjoy, even if you don’t realize it.

The week-long series of emails, designed by ACUI’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program Team, encourages reflection on white privilege, defined by the team as a “right, immunity, benefit, advantage, or favor connected to one’s identity” that “is relative, contextual, and often unearned.” Each exercise within the challenge juxtaposes the white experience of power and privilege with the oppression faced by the BIPOC community.

According to the National Association of School Psychologists, self-awareness is a crucial step in leveling structural inequity. As the organization states in a recent social justice bulletin: “We must be aware of and honest about our personal perspectives and how these may or may not contribute to biases that in turn may contribute, even unintentionally, to prejudice, inequity, isolation, poverty, and violence.”

ACUI modeled its White Privilege challenge, which includes education on systemic racism and tools for helping to dismantle it, on Layla Saad’s New York Times bestseller “Me and White Supremacy.” Saad first introduced the anti-racism materials as a free, month-long Instagram challenge in 2018, followed by a digital workbook that 100,000 people downloaded in just six months.

In 2020, 135 individuals took part in ACUI’s adaptation of the exercise, which requires nothing more than a name and email address to get started. Participants can expect to spend 15 minutes a day on various prompts. Exercises include watching videos, diving into reading materials, and exploring relevant terminology while reflecting on and journaling about the experience.

Over the period of one week, participants will learn how to identify privilege, better process personal behavior critiques, and commit to actionable plans for personal growth.

The real challenge lies not in setting aside time to process the materials, but in recognizing one’s own privileged identity and processing behavioral critiques in a non-defensive manner. Even the most well-educated, socially sensitive individuals may find the latter more difficult than expected.

As Ta-Nehisi Coates states in “We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy,” racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others.

While acknowledging white privilege is critical, it’s only a small first step in a continuous process of abolishing the white superiority so deeply rooted in our institutions and practices.

After completing the White Privilege Challenge, be sure to review ACUI’s portfolio of social justice resources, which features helpful educational materials, articles, and guides on the topic. The DEI Program Team’s “Table Talks” podcast, for instance, includes episodes on creating more inclusive campus communities.

ACUI also offers an on-demand virtual DEI series featuring a range of related topics, such as Equitable and Inclusive Policies and Procedures, which helps viewers create and analyze campus practices through a more considered lens.

Another way to get involved: Join the new DEI Community of Practice, an online space that can be used to ask questions, share ideas, and solicit feedback on DEI efforts at member campuses. The new community is one of ACUI’s efforts to infuse DEI into the backbone of the association with social justice serving as a critical focus area and core competency.

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