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Kivel+How+whites+can+work+for+jusice - The Culture of...

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Copyright 2000 by Paul Kivel www.paulkivel.com The Culture of Power 1 by Paul Kivel I F YOU ARE A WOMAN and you have ever walked into a men’s meeting, or a person of color and have walked into a white organization, or a child who walked into the principal’s office, or a Jew or Muslim who entered a Christian space, then you know what it is like to walk into a culture of power that is not your own. You may feel insecure, unsafe, disrespected, unseen or marginalized. You know you have to tread carefully. Whenever one group of people accumulates more power than another group, the more powerful group creates an environment that places its members at the cultural center and other groups at the margins. People in the more powerful group (the “in-group”) are accepted as the norm, so if you are in that group it can be very hard for you to see the benefits you receive. Since I’m male and I live in a culture in which men have more social, political, and economic power than women, I often don’t notice that women are treated differently than I am. I’m inside a male culture of power. I expect to be treated with respect, to be listened to, and to have my opinions valued. I expect to be welcomed. I expect to see people like me in positions of authority. I expect to find books and newspapers that are written by people like me, that reflect my perspective, and that show me in central roles. I don’t necessarily notice that the women around me are treated less respectfully, ignored, or silenced; that they are not visible in positions of authority nor welcomed in certain spaces; and that they are charged more for a variety of goods and services and are not always safe in situations where I feel perfectly comfortable. Remember when you were a young person entering a space that reflected an adult culture of power—a classroom, store, or office where adults were in charge? What let you know that you were on adult turf, that adults were at the center of power? Some of the things I remember are that adults were in control. They made the decisions. They might be considerate enough to ask 1 Adapted by the author from Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice
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Copyright 2000 by Paul Kivel www.paulkivel.com “The Culture of Power” page: 2 me what I thought, but they did not have to take my concerns into account. I could be dismissed at any time, so I learned to be cautious. I could look around and see what was on the walls, what music was being played, what topics were being discussed, and most important, who made those decisions, and I knew that this was an adult culture of power. I felt I was under scrutiny. I had to change my behavior—how I dressed (“pull up your pants”, “tuck in your shirt”), how I spoke (“speak up”, “don’t mumble”), even my posture (“sit up, don’t slouch”, “look me in the eye when I’m talking to you”)—so that I would be accepted and heard. I couldn’t be as smart as I was or I’d be considered a smart aleck. I had to learn the adults’ code, talk
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