wpcr logo pic

Upcoming Workshops:

Spring, 2018

April 10-May 8
  • Cambridge Center for Adult Education, Cambridge MA – for scholarship information for CCAE, here’s the link
  • 5 Tuesdays, April 10-May 8, 2018, 7:45p-9:45p
  • Register here
  • Facilitators: Devon Davidson and Michelle Chalmers. Read their profiles on our Facilitators page
  • $85 covers all 5 sessions and materials.
July 17-August 14
  • Cambridge Center for Adult Education, Cambridge MA – for scholarship information for CCAE, here’s the link
  • 5 Tuesdays, July 17-August 14, 2018, 7:45p-9:45p
  • Registration not yet open
  • Facilitators: Alexandra Steinhauer and Emily Forsyth Queen. Read their profiles on our Facilitators page
  • $85 covers all 5 sessions and materials.


Who we are and what we do:

White People Challenging Racism (WPCR) is a grassroots course, co-led by a network of facilitators who first took the class, and then were invited to co-lead it. WPCR seeks to build a racially just society through providing the information, skills, and resources needed to spur people to action in standing up against racism. People of all heritages are welcome to join us as we focus on the role of white people in dismantling racism.  

WPCR’s five-part workshop consists of weekly two-hour meetings over the course of five weeks. Workshops are led by pairs of facilitators and aim to help participants gain the racial self-awareness needed for genuine participation in multiracial communities. Through readings, exercises, discussion, and real world assignments, participants’ build skills and confidence in confronting racism. We strive to keep the course timely, thought-provoking, and action-oriented.

Since 1999, the course has drawn more than 1,500 participants, ages 13 to 81, from a wide spectrum of backgrounds. Initially developed (and still offered) at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education (www.CCAE.org), WPCR has been offered at adult education programs and college campuses in the Boston area, and has been adapted for  teachers, law enforcement, public servants, social service providers, and others.

Our work is supported, in part, by Community Change, Inc. and the Haymarket People’s Fund, as well as a network of individuals committed to keeping the course timely, thought-provoking, and action-oriented. 

Beginning in 2016, WPCR joined as one of the many programs through Community Change, Inc. (CCI).  joining SURJ-Boston and the Boston Knapsack Anti-Racism Group., which are also under the CCI umbrella. We are excited about the synergy created by our coming together at this critical time and to being able to multiply the effects of our efforts towards making racial justice a reality in our communities. 
CCI is a  Boston-based organization that has been reaching out to address the roots of racism in white communities for close to 50 years. Founded by Horace Seldon in 1968, to address “the white problem” of racism, CCI has been collaborating with WPCR since our beginning in 1999, and we are thrilled to take this relationship to the next level..

 Course Challenge 

White people, are you sick of the tension that can fill the room when the topic of race comes up? People of color, are you frustrated by that tension too? People of all heritages/identities are welcome to join us as we focus on the role of white people in dismantling racism and building a just society. We’ll examine the impact of white privilege and how being unaware of that advantage helps perpetuate racism and racial tension. We’ll discuss short readings and share everyday situations in which we did not speak up effectively against racial bias. Using role-playing, we’ll work out effective ways to respond. Participants will develop specific plans for challenging racism, in your workplace, organizations, community, and personal circles. We’ll figure out ways to find other people in your life who can provide support and serve as allies in your efforts.


by Barbara Beckwith

Article appearing on Cambridge Center For Adult Educations’ blog

I stand up straighter because of a CCAE body workshop, converse in French with the help of CCAE conversation classes, and am a well-published writer in part because of the encouragement of CCAE teachers like Mopsy Strange Kennedy.

That’s why, when I got active in National Writers Union’s diversity committee as a white ally, I signed up for the Center’s “White People Challenging Racism: Moving From Talk to Action” (WPCR) course. I was attracted by the title’s focus on action and saw the course as an opportunity to work through various negative media stereotypes rolling around in my brain.

I worried a bit that such a course would be all about blame and shame, but it was not. Instead, it made clear that white people benefit from racial inequities that persisted long after the end of slavery and Jim Crow. World War II internment camps that forced Japanese Americans to sell their homes for a pittance; boarding schools, and allotment policies that broke up Native families and communities, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the “guest worker” program that exploited and then expelled Mexican agricultural workers, and a post- World War II G.I. bill that created all-white suburbs, cutting people of color out of home equity, access to college education, and job protections. Today, unequal systems persist via racial profiling, school re-segregation, mass incarceration, restrictions on immigrants and refugees, and voter suppression.

Since I didn’t ask for my white skin privileges, I don’t feel guilty, but I do feel responsible to do something about inequities and about the constant slights that people of color still face from the unconscious bias of people like me: like papercuts, they look slight, but sting like crazy.

I was impressed that the Center’s program coordinator, Tracy Gibbs, had been the impetus for the class back in 1999. She asked Jennifer Yanco to create such a class and CCAE director Jim Smith felt strongly that it was both needed and should be affordable. So the Center has always offered it at a significantly reduced rate. It’s now held four times a year, led by rotating co-facilitators, each of whom first took and now co-lead it.

I was so energized the first time I took White People Challenging Racism that I took it a second time, and then was asked to co-facilitate. The facilitator group was all white until 2012, when participants of color have joined the steadily expanding group.

We developed a 10-hour course that combined reflection, practice, and commitment to action. In all five sessions, we reflect on our “implicit biases” and how to undo them. We acknowledge how racism affects us. We read short articles, view videos, share everyday situations and practice what to say when we hear offensive remarks by a friend, boss, stranger, or family member. We “call in” instead of “calling out.”

Our evolving group of facilitators helps the course itself evolve. Early classes found inspiration in Peggy McIntosh’s “Unpacking the White Privilege Knapsack” (1988 essay), and Lee Mun Wah’s “The Color of Fear” (1994 documentary), while current classes are inspired by Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations” (The Atlantic, 2016), former WPCR facilitator Debby Irving’s memoir Waking Up White (2014), and Norma Johnson’s “A Poem for My White Friends — I Didn’t Tell You” (YouTube).

People of all ages take WPCR. The younger participants are surprised by those who are older, and visa-versa, since each had assumed that the other generation was indifferent. Motivations range from personal (a relationship with a person of color) to professional (job environments; teacher/student relationships) to social (finding community with other racial justice activists). Participants of color have included diversity consultants, a college student bothered that she was avoiding her white roommate, and a Columbian American wanting to share the racism he experienced as an immigrant but who also recognized his own prejudice against indigenous people in his country of origin.

By the end of the five 2-hour sessions, each person makes a plan to take some kind of racial justice action in their work places, organizations, neighborhoods and faith communities, as well as in their personal relationships. I found myself pressing my local newspaper to report racial incidents without bias, talking openly about my white skin advantage, and pondering  those images that had rolled through my head via personal essays (What Was I Thinking? www.cddbooks.com), and contributing to theUnderstanding and Dismantling Privilege Journal (www.wpcjournal.com) and the 2016 anthology, What Does It Mean to Be White? (www.2leafpress.com). Other facilitators also turned their perspectives into books: Jennifer Yanco (Misremembering Dr. King), Susan Naimark (The Education of a White Parent), Michelle Chalmers (The Skin on My Chin and The Story of METCO), and Debby Irving (Waking Up White).

After the class, WPCR participants are able to stay connected to the larger racial justice community via Boston-based Community Change Inc. (www.communitychangeinc.org), which hosts White People Challenging Racism (www.wpcr-boston.org), the multi-racial Boston Knapsack Anti-Racism Group (www.meetup.com/Antiracists) and Showing Up for Racial Justice (www.surjboston.org), the Boston chapter of the nationwide white allies group.

The Cambridge Center’s willingness to deal with our group’s revolving facilitators is gratifying, as well as its responsiveness to our suggestions re: staffing diversity and website enhancements (www.ccae.org/about) so that immigrant and Black historical aspects of its buildings are featured.

As teacher and WPCR participant Lavette Coney writes: when she’s asked “Why does everything have to be about race?” she responds: “Because it is.  Race is a social construct that affects everyone and everything we do. Racism continues to be the biggest unresolved issue in our society.”


Completely Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack:

How White Privilege Hurts White People 

by Michelle Chalmers, MSW

            In 1988-89, Peggy McIntosh published two papers on white privilege, the shorter of which is called “White Privilege:  Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” In it she listed many ways in which she benefits from a system of “unearned assets” she has as a white woman in a society that favors whites and gives them unearned advantages. She compared white privilege to “an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks.” As far as she could see her colleagues of color did not have these unearned assets.

I am a white woman who has been married to a Black man for 27 years. We have two sons. I have looked deeper into my knapsack. In addition to the seemingly endless list of advantages and benefits of white privilege are all the harmful disadvantages that white privilege empties onto me as a white person. These disadvantages are the unearned liabilities of white privilege. Unearned liabilities are the societal and cultural disadvantages that put white people in a state of blurred reality, separateness, and internal damage which in turn affects all the rest of humanity. I am ready to dive deeper into the concept of white privilege and examine it for the harm it does to the people who have it, and enable white people to see it is something we need to work against.

Some Liabilities of White Privilege –How White Privilege Hurts White People

  • White privilege racializes us to believe we are superior
  • White privilege tells us we are entitled and deserving
  • White privilege makes us believe things that are not real
  • White privilege allows us to deny things that are real
  • White privilege allows us to deny peoples lived reality
  • White privilege restricts us from really understanding the world of which we believe we are an exceptional part
  • White privilege tricks us into thinking the playing field is level
  • White privilege justifies us living in a false reality
  • White privilege hinders our ability to feel compassion and empathy for all humans
  • White privilege limits our ability to create equity
  • White privilege limits our ability to ask the question…. why?
  • White privilege restricts our ability to see and be comfortable with all of humanity
  • White privilege limits our ability to understand parts of our own identity
  • White privilege keeps us from seeing human differences as an amazing gift
  • White privilege closes us off from seeing people who are different as equally human
  • White privilege limits us in choosing the truest friend and true love
  • White privilege limits our awareness of how people really feel or what they think
  • White privilege deceives us into seeing beauty in only some places
  • White privilege limits our ability to have a true connection to many people of color
  • White privilege controls our judgment
  • White privilege allows us to rationalize injustice
  • White privilege stops us from working to create change in systems that are unjust and inequitable
  • White privilege has confined us to communities who are also hurting from all these same things
  • White privilege expects to have the same effect on white children

* Copyright 1989, Peggy McIntosh. Peace and Freedom magazine, July-August 1989, pp. 10-12. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Phila, PA.

Thank you to Peggy McIntosh for your wisdom and grace.


• View our special report: Spurred to Action: Voices of Participants in “White People Challenging Racism:  Moving From Talk to Action”

Other info and publications:

By current and inactive co-facilitators:

Everyday Racism: Questions and Quandaries, By Barbara Beckwith

Long-term facilitator Barbara Beckwith’s personal essays on staring, anti-Semitism, beauty, family stories, slave narratives, entrenched racism, white resistance, plus book reviews. 3rd in series fromwww.cddbooks.com.

Misremembering Dr. King:  Revisiting the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., By Jennifer Yanco

Our founding member, Jennifer Yanco, published a book on Dr. King and how much of his activism is not celebrated or even acknowledged.

Social Justice in English Language Teaching

Current facilitator, Lavette Coney, contributed a chapter on teacher self-reflection and implicit bias in this anthology on social justice.

The Skin on My Chin and The Story of METCO, By Michelle Chalmers

Integral facilitator, Michelle Chalmers, wrote two children’s books.  The Skin on My Chin was written as a tool for parents and teachers to engage in conversations about skin color, melanin, ancestry, diversity, race, stereotypes and prejudice.  The Story of METCO is an important story to tell all children. It is a story of our past, present and future. One that celebrates human diversity and the importance of friendship, equality, equity, and education.

Waking Up White:  and finding myself in the story of race, By Debby Irving

Past facilitator, Debby Irving, published a book chronicling her journey of discovery of where she fits inside race in this country.

Articles about WPCR:

Final Call wrote a small article about our class and Community Change.   The Alewife newsletter interviewed WPCR co-facilitators Jennifer Yanco, Barbara Beckwith and Lisa Graustein.   WPCR was mentioned in an article in the Boston Globe about white groups talking and acting against racism.  WPCR in conjunction with Black Lives Matter, Cambridge, was mentioned in the Cambridge Chronicle.

Keynote Speaker:

Our founding member Jennifer Yanco gave the keynote address at the University of New England in Maine, as part of their Diversity Lecture Series, entitled, “Privilege, Power & Politics.” You can read a PDF of the speech here.

• Are you an alum of the class?  Join our alum Yahoo group!