Cracking the Shell of Whiteness

Cracking the Shell of whiteness superimposed over egg shell that is cracking open

A Curriculum to Build Capacity For White People to be in Solidarity
with People of Color in the Work of Dismantling Racism

Cracking the Shell of Whiteness

About this Curriculum

Created by the workgroup of:

Sheryl Boman, Doug Bowen-Bailey, Dick Dolezal, Cindy Donner, Ann Mahoney, Ellen O’Neill, and Lyn Clark Pegg

With support from:

The People’s Institute North
Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation
Otto Bremer Foundation
Walker Foundation

This curriculum was developed to create a space for white people interested in being effective allies with people of color in the work of dismantling racism and undoing white privilege.  This is a process designed to support people wherever they are on their journey.  While this process is designed for white people to go through this experience with other white people, it does not mean that white people should act on their own in doing the work of transforming society.  This time of preparation is to empower people to be more effective allies in partnerships across racial lines.

Using the Curriculum

If you are using the curriculum with a fee for participation, we suggest that at least a portion of that fee go to support initiatives in the community that are led by people of color.


Session 1

Download Handout for Participants (Word .doc) | Download Facilitator Guide

Session 1

Who We Are


  • To build a safe environment and cohesiveness
  • Understanding white identity individually and collectively

Opening Reflection: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou

“Stories are, in one way or another, mirrors. We use them to explain to ourselves how the world works or how it doesn’t work. Like mirrors, stories prepare us for the day to come.” Neil Gaiman, Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions


Covenant for safe environment for sharing

What is needed to create a safe and cohesive environment in these sessions?

Our World Views: A Different Look

Map of the world with South Pole oriented at the top

Key Terms:

  • Ethnicity
  • Dominant Culture
  • Racial Identity
  • World View

Significant Question:

Why Are We Here?

Identifying Whiteness

When did you begin to realize you were white and what did it mean?

Deepening Question:

What’s the relationship between whiteness and racism?

Homework: Family of Origin Stories

Before the next session, work on creating a story that shares more insight into your racial socialization. Your facilitators will share examples of how this might be done, but it is really up to you to figure out what is the most meaningful approach for you. You will share your stories in small groups next time.  See examples by clicking here.

Example from Debby Irving

Debby Irving is the author of “Waking Up White.”    This is an excerpt from a talk she gave at the University of Virginia.

This video is an excerpt from Debby Irving’s presentation for the University of Virginia Curry School of Education.… This excerpt is hosted on the Digiterp YouTube Channel to allow for captioning to provide accessibility.

Homework: Building a Collage of Whiteness

Please bring a picture or image that represents in some way white privilege or whiteness. You can find the image on the internet, or in a magazine. We will add them together to make a collage next time. (If you forget, we will have some magazines available that you can choose from.)


“I have divided the book into several sections reflecting the key lessons about whiteness that I am in the process of learning and which lessons I hope to pass along to others. The first of these is that to be white is to be ‘born to belonging’. …To be white is to be born into an environment where one’s legitimacy is far less likely to be questioned than would the legitimacy of a person of color, be it in terms of where one lives, where one works, or where one goes to school. To be white is even more, to be born into a system that had been set up for the benefit of people like us.” ~ Tim Wise, White Like Me

Session 2

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Session 2: Socialized into Whiteness


  • To identify and begin to understand the manifestations of internalized racial superiority.
  • To understand how and why “white” was socially constructed.


“We are what we know.  We are, however, also what we do not know.  If what we know about ourselves-our history, our culture, our national identity-is deformed by absences, denials and incompleteness, then our identity-both as individuals and as Americans-is fragmented.”  William Pinar


Interactive Exercise:  “A Collage of White Identity”

Looking at the Manifestations of Internalized Racial Superiority

Download Handout

Family of Origin Stories:

In small groups, share the stories that you created this past week related to your racial socialization.

Large Group Discussion:

•    What were your feelings as you wrote your stories?
•    What did you hear in other people’s stories?
•    Were there commonalities in the stories?
•    How does this speak to the collective experience of whiteness?

Please keep your stories with your folders as we will be returning to them in a later session.

Closing Reflection

“We need help to look at ourselves. We need help to understand how we as a people through history have used others for our own ends.  We need help to understand that our own worth and power is not lost in a just distribution of power.  The emotional weight that racism produces in whites blinds us from a vision of the fundamental changes we must work for and which will, in fact, free us all.” ~ Frances Kendall



Session 3

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Session 3: Where and When We Come From


• To understand how and why “white” was socially constructed.
• To understand the process of establishing white superiority.

Learning From History

“The psychic and physical devastation that so marked slave and colonial systems echoes into our lives today…If we could but see a causal chain, a procession of events linked over time, it might teach us many lessons about the long-term consequences of violently exploiting humans as only capital.” ~ Patricia Williams, 1997

“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” Winston Churchill

Reflections on Homework

In small groups, share your reflections on the articles “Membership has its Privileges” and “A Long history of Affirmative Actions for Whites”

Video: RACE – The Power of an Illusion ~ “The House You Live In”

This video is created by California Newsreel and was shown on PBS.

For more info on the video, visit:

• What was your reaction to hearing the current statistics?
• Has this information changed your perceptions of racism and white privilege in the U.S.?
• How does what was shared in the video related to your own family of origin story?

Video: Allan Johnson – The Economic Legacy of Slavery

If you cannot access this video clip, you can read Allan Johnson’s essay, “Where White Privilege Comes From.”

You can also use the video by Doug Bowen-Bailey , “The House I live in” in which he explains how racism and white privilege has been a part of building his home.

Homework: Unpacking Our Own Knapsacks

In the next session, you will be asked to bring artifacts from home that represent your understanding of how white privilege plays out in your life. Read Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack of Privilege by Peggy McIntosh.

Here are two video examples of the assignment to fill your own knapsack with artifacts from your life which represent your understanding of how white privilege has played a role in your life.

Closing Reflection

“People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.” James A. Baldwin
“I am responsible for the house which I did not build but in which I live. “ Dorothee Soelle

Session 4

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Exploring The Legacy of White Privilege

Section 4 Objective

  • To deepen our understanding of white privilege and how it affects our lives
  • To move from an intellectual understanding of white privilege to an emotional understanding

Opening Reflection

I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was meant to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible, weightless knapsack of special provisions: maps, passports, code books, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks. – Peggy McIntosh

Unpacking Our Own Knapscks

Divide into small groups of 3 to unpack your own knapsacks.

Dealing with the Emotional Impact of White Privilege

  1. Take a couple of minutes to reflect on your overall reactions to the activities you have experienced so far today. Using the crayons available, silently write down words, symbols, pictures that are associated with your feelings. Do this on the half-sheets of paper in front of you, then place them in the interior circle on the paper covering your table.
  2. Once everyone at your table has placed their images in the circle, share with each other at your table what feelings came up as you reflected on the video and homework articles. Be aware of the tendency to intellectualize your responses at this time, focus only on your emotional reactions.
  3. Discuss with each other your responses to the question: what does it mean to live with white privilege and how does it impact us individually and collectively?
  4. As you do this, write all of your responses within the outer ring of the paper covering your table.
  5. Report back to the whole group.

Addressing White Fragility

Since the creation of this curriculum, Robin DiAngelo has brought forth the concept of “White Fragility” which can surface in dealing with the emotional impact of deconstructing white privilege.  Here is a video clip of her describing that conflict.

For more from Dr. DiAngelo, you can view a more formal presentation.

Closing Reflection:

“We who grew up white southerners two and three generations ago learned something else the whole society needs to ponder. We found that when we turned ourselves inside out to face the truth, it was a painful process, but it was not destructive. Rather, it became a moment of rebirth – and opened up new creative vistas in our lives.” Ann Braeden, from Understanding White Privilege, by Frances Kendall


Session 5

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Allies in Resisting Racism and White Supremacy

Section 5 Objective

  • To identify how white people can move to being more effective allies
  • To identify characteristics of effective white allies
  • To analyze systems and institutions and begin action planning

Opening Reflection:

“How is one to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in life, when one finds darkness not only in one’s culture but within oneself? If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox. One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light.” Barry Lopez ~ Arctic Dreams

The Ladder of Empowerment for White People

Responding to “the life long journey” by Tema Okun.

Ladder of Empowerment

Significant Questions:

  • Where are you in your own process?
    What are the next steps in that journey for you?

Using your own personal stories, including the Family of Origin story you developed for the first session, identify how you have lived on the various rungs of the ladder and where you see yourself now.

Looking at Systems and Institutions

Key Terms:

  • Individual Racism
  • Cultural Racism
  • Institutional Racism

Select one of the three institutions to look at and in small groups, discuss how white privilege functions in the institution and what might be some strategies to dismantle it.


Looking at Allies

Significant Questions:

• Who are role models of white people who have effectively worked to dismantle racism and partner with people color in the struggle for racial justice?
• What are the characteristics of effective allies?

Handout:  Characteristics of Effective Allies & Perspectives from Treasurer Jenkins

Closing Reflection:

The poet or the revolutionary is there to articulate the necessity, but until the people themselves apprehend it, nothing can happen … Perhaps it can’t be done without the poet, but it certainly can’t be done without the people. The poet and the people get on generally very badly, and yet they need each other. The poet knows it sooner than the people do. The people usually know it after the poet is dead; but that’s all right. The point is to get your work done, and your work is to change the world. — James Baldwin


  • Bring one situation that you would like to role play or discuss in terms of how to effectively respond.
  • Begin to create an action plan for the next parts of your journey.  (Action Plan Handout)

Session 6

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Creating Action Plans for the Future

Section 6 Objectives

  • To develop action plans for future work
  • To practice skills in responding to challenging situations

Opening Reflection

Sometimes change comes not in the first round, but at the second, third or fourth. Change starts with one person questioning, challenging, speaking up and doing something to make a difference. We can each make a difference…because each of us is already part of the community where racism exists and thrives. ~ Paul Kivel, 1993

Significant Questions:

  • What’s the role of white people in undoing racism?
  • What knowledge and skills do you need to work on to build your capacity to be effective in addressing racism/white privilege individually and in group settings?
  • What can you do to contribute to and sustain a white anti racist collective in your community?

A Framework for Responding
from Shelly Tochluck, Witnessing Whiteness

Download “Ways to Respond” Handout

This handout is from It outlines different ways of responding.

Role Playing/Discussing Challenges

Last week, you were asked to bring a scenario that you would like to practice how to respond. We will do some brainstorming as a group and practice how to respond.

Our Plans of Action

  • Share your action plans in small groups (Amend and revise as desired)
  • Share one goal with the large group

Next Steps ~ Opportunities

Wrapping Up

  • Appreciations/Final Check-in
  • Evaluations
  • Living the Contradictions
    • Amazing Grace

    • Password:  cracking123

Closing Reflection

The Future

The faces and the tactics of the leaders
may change every four years, or two, or one,
but the people go on forever.
The people-beaten down today,
yet rising tomorrow;
losing the road one minute
but finding it the next;
their eyes always fixed on a star
of true [connection], equality and dignity
-the people are the real guardians
of our hopes and dreams.
Paul Robeson, 1952

Feedback & Contact

This curriculum is offered for use, but is not necessarily actively maintained.   If you find a broken link or an issue with the web site, please send an e-mail to:

Doug Bowen-Bailey

He will do his best to respond to your concern and fix the issue as quickly as possible.