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Book of Resolutions: White Privilege in the United States


European Americans enjoy a broad range of privileges denied to persons of color in our society, privileges that often permit them to dominate others who do not enjoy such privileges. While there are many issues that reflect the racism in US society, there are some cases where racism is the issue, such as affirmative action, housing, job discrimination, hate crimes, and criminal justice. In addition, there are many broader social issues where racism is one factor in the equation, albeit often the major one.

Poverty is a serious problem in the US, but a far greater percentage of Black and Hispanic persons are poorer than white persons.

Police brutality is much more prevalent in ethnic minority communities, partly because police in minority communities are usually a nonresident, mostly white occupying force.

Schools in white communities receive a far higher proportion of education dollars than those in minority communities, leading to larger class size, fewer resources, and inferior facilities.

While welfare affects the entire society, it hits minorities hardest. Although both Democrats and Republicans support tax credits for families to enable middle-class mothers to stay home with their children, welfare “reform” forces poor, single mothers to take low-paying jobs and leave their children to inadequate or nonexistent day care. Because more and better job opportunities are open to white persons, they are leaving the welfare rolls faster than minority persons, making minority persons a disproportionate segment of the welfare population.

Criminal “justice” is meted out more aggressively in racial minority communities than white communities. Nearly half of inmates in the US are African American; one out of every fourteen Black men is now in prison or jail; one out of every four is likely to be imprisoned at some point during his lifetime.

If only one of these areas impacted ethnic minorities disproportionately, an explanation might be found in some sociological factor other than race. But where race is a common thread running through virtually every inequality in our society, we are left with only one conclusion: White, European Americans enjoy a wide range of privileges that are denied to persons of color in our society. These privileges enable white persons to escape the injustices and inconveniences which are the daily experience of racial ethnic persons. Those who are White assume that they can purchase a home wherever they choose if they have the money; that they can expect courteous service in stores and restaurants; that if they are pulled over by a police car it will be for a valid reason unrelated to their skin color. Persons of color cannot make these assumptions.

We suggest that the church focus not only on the plight of people living in urban or rural ghettos, but also on white privilege and its impact on white persons. For example, churches in white or predominantly white communities need to ask why there are no persons of color in their community, why the prison population in their state is disproportionately Black and Hispanic persons, why there are so few Black and Hispanic persons in high-paying jobs and prestigious universities, why schools in white communities receive more than their fair share of education dollars, and why white persons receive preferential treatment from white police officers.

We ask the General Conference to recognize white privilege as an underlying cause of injustice in our society including our church and to commit the church to its elimination in church and society.

The rights and privileges a society bestows upon or withholds from those who comprise it indicate the relative esteem in which that society holds particular persons and groups of persons.

We direct the General Board of Discipleship (GBOD), in consultation with the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR), to prepare a study guide on white privilege and its consequences in church and society.

We ask the Board of Church and Society in every annual conference to sponsor workshops on white privilege.

We direct the GCORR and the GBOD to jointly review and develop UM curriculum materials, with particular attention to those for children and youth, for the purpose of affirming children of all racial and ethnic groups, and to communicate in our curriculum materials that in our society, privileges that are taken for granted by white persons are often denied to others because of their racial and ethnic identity.

We ask each local church with a predominantly white membership: 1) to reflect on its own willingness to welcome persons without regard to race and to assess the relative accessibility in housing, employment, education and recreation in its community to white persons and to persons of color; and 2) to welcome persons of color into membership and full participation in the church and community and to advocate for their access to the benefits which white persons take for granted.

We challenge individual white persons to confess their participation in the sin of racism and repent for past and current racist practices. And we challenge individual ethnic persons to appropriate acts of forgiveness.

Finally, we call all persons, whatever their racial or ethnic heritage, to work together to restore the broken body of Christ.


See Social Principles, ¶ 162A.