A collection of essays offers the reflections of 13 White women grappling with their own racial privilege and family histories.
In this book, Iversen complements her research on collective and family trauma in Ancestral Blueprints (2009). She provides readers with a dozen essays by White women, most of whom live in the Pacific Northwest and Canada, who contemplate their complicity in systemic racism. “Bringing visibility to both perpetrators and victims of injustice,” writes the editor, “is necessary to heal inheritances of collective trauma.” In particular, these essays focus on how “indoctrination in the innocence of white womanhood meant relying on white men to be solely responsible for the perpetrator roles of humanity” while ignoring the ways in which White women benefited from White supremacy. Many of the women’s family histories include relatives both directly and indirectly involved in specific acts of racial violence. The grandparents of one essayist, for example, were present at a “legal lynching” of a Black man in Owensboro, Kentucky, who had been hastily convicted by an all-White jury for the rape and murder of a White woman. Another contributor is a descendant of Colorado Territorial Gov. John Evans, who was forced to resign due to his role in the Sand Creek massacre of over 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho. Other contributors include the children of European immigrants from working-class families who benefited from their Whiteness in their new homeland. Collectively, these essays are not just well written, but also poignant and often raw in their acknowledgment of the ways in which their authors have personally benefited from both White privilege and the myth of innocence surrounding White women. Most essays also conclude with a list of resources and sources that will be useful to others interested in exploring historical and contemporary Whiteness. Though this book takes the important first step in acknowledging how the past continues to benefit White women in the present, there is not much provided in terms of practical solutions geared toward not just reconciliation, but racial justice and reparations as well.
A timely and thoughtful discussion about the intersection of gender and White privilege. (acknowledgements)