Generating ideas, connections, and action

Transforming White Privilege: A 21st Century Leadership Capacity -- Survey Findings

Bookmark and Share

Posted on behalf of Sally Leiderman

The Center for Assessment and Policy Development was supported by a grant from the Leadership Learning Community Seed Fund to survey leadership programs to learn how they are addressing issues of white privilege, structural racism and diversity in the context of their leadership programs. The survey is part of a larger project in which CAPD is partnering with MP Associates and World Trust Educational Services to create tools and guidance that can be embedded in a wide range of leadership programs to take up these issues. As we found out at Creating Space recently – even with our best intentions – many of us lack the skills, confidence and fortitude to deal straight on with these issues – even when we think that is a strategy that might be helpful.  Many of us also wonder about how to be strategic about these issues – when to raise them, whether to raise them – whether attention to community, relationships, love and courage – can be “color-blind” or need to be racialized. My take-away from what occurred at Creating Space is that we are going to need multiple strategies, multiple entry points and a whole lot of experimentation and persistence on leading for social justice. 


The survey covered eight key terms:  Diversity, Race Relations, Oppression, Structural Racism, Institutional Racism, White Privilege, Immigrant and Refugee Concerns and GLBTQ Concerns.  (Below is an attachment with the definitions for each of these terms.)  CAPD asked survey respondents to rate both their personal familiarity with and the extent to which the leadership programs they are affiliated with use the eight terms described above.   The first six terms (diversity, race relations, oppression, structural racism, institutional racism and white privilege) are often found in comprehensive glossaries concerned with race and racism.  We included immigrant and refugee concerns and GLBTQ concerns as a sort of control – just to see if all terms got the same level of response.   However, we found that those latter two concepts are much less frequently addressed by leadership groups even than the concepts more generally connected to race and racism.


CAPD received 122 survey responses from the LLC mailing list. About three-quarters design, run, fund or evaluate leadership efforts for the non-profit sector about 25% for business leaders.   There is a lot variety in the groups served – grassroots, education or health, GLBTQ, youth and other foci.   There is some racial/ethnic diversity among the groups – 40% identify themselves as people of color (25% African American; 10% Asian-American or Pacific Islander; 6% Latino or Hispanic; 5% as Native American); though the majority  (60%) identify themselves as white. We noticed that the respondents are a fairly senior bunch – almost 2/3’s design, run, fund or evaluate 4 or more leadership efforts; almost half are over 40 years old; only 6%  are under thirty.      
The powerpoint slides indicate a couple of interesting findings.  One of the most interesting findings is about how leadership programs address the concepts described in the terms.  We asked respondents whether or not their “leadership effort intentionally address[ed each] topic in its planned activities.”  More than half indicated that they deliberately address five of the six race and privilege-oriented terms (Diversity, Race Relations, Oppression, Structural Racism and Institutional Racism).  The only exception was White Privilege itself (While only 44.9% of respondents indicated that they ‘intentionally address this topic,’ 59.7% indicated that they ‘have a prepared process for dealing with this concept or issue if someone brings it up.’)   And, only 25% have a prepared process to address GLBTQ concerns; though 60% have something to offer if the topic comes up.

 

The powerpoint slides (see attachment) indicate a couple of interesting findings.  One of the most interesting findings is about how leadership programs address the concepts described in the terms.  We asked respondents whether or not their “leadership effort intentionally address[ed each] topic in its planned activities.”  More than half indicated that they deliberately address five of the six race and privilege-oriented terms (Diversity, Race Relations, Oppression, Structural Racism and Institutional Racism).  The only exception was White Privilege itself (While only 44.9% of respondents indicated that they ‘intentionally address this topic,’ 59.7% indicated that they ‘have a prepared process for dealing with this concept or issue if someone brings it up.’)   And, only 25% have a prepared process to address GLBTQ concerns; though 60% have something to offer if the topic comes up.


Another important finding is that programs don’t necessarily think they are very effective in dealing with many of these issues – for example, three-quarters of respondents hope their programs will promote participants to act in new ways with regards to these issues; while fewer than half believe they are successful in that goal.  We also note that only about third or fewer of the respondents hope the programs they run, fund, evaluate or design will help their participants acquire basic knowledge of structural racism or white privilege.  Fewer than one-quarter believe their programs are successful in that endeavor. 


In their responses to open-ended questions asking them to provide feedback as to any challenges they’ve faced working with these issues, many respondents, perhaps unsurprisingly to those of you who have worked on these issues before, indicated that they had experienced varying levels of resistance when they had attempted to make White Privilege an explicit focus of their efforts.  CAPD also found respondents concerned with creating ‘safe spaces’ where program participants could discuss iss