Beth Applegate, co-presented a day-long institute on using Polarity Thinking to interrupt White Privilege. Polarity Thinking is not new. The focus on interdependent pairs (polarities) is as old as Judaism, which recognizes an interdependency between a god of mercy who loves you and a god of justice who holds you accountable for your actions. Polarities are interdependent pairs in which we live and that live in us. In the literature they are also called dilemmas, paradoxes, or tensions. They are unsolvable, unavoidable, indestructible, and unstoppable. Each polarity is a powerful energy system that we can learn to leverage to achieve positive change. For example, which one is more important? Intention OR Impact; Individual Racism OR Structural Racism; Making a Difference OR Enjoying Life; Mercy OR Justice; Freedom for the Part OR Equality among the parts within the Whole. These are all polarities. Opposite pairs which can't function well independently - You cannot choose one as a solution and neglect the other over a sustained period of time without experiencing negative results. A very relevant and life-sustaining polarity is breathing. We breathe in; we breathe out. Do you prefer one over the other? Is one better than the other? Choosing inhaling
White privilege, in the United States context, is about inequitable distribution of power, money, education, healthcare, housing, and work, to name a few. Most of the issues associated with interrupting and dismantling white privilege are polarities to leverage and not problems to solve. It is easy to identify white privilege as a "problem to solve." It is also easy to simply identify the "solution" as the move From white privilege To racial equality. This is based on a "gap analysis" in which we identify three things: 1) what is wrong with the present state = white privilege, 2) what would be a preferred future state = racial equality, and, 3) a strategy to bridge the "gap" between the present state and the preferred future state. We suggest that gap analysis and typical problem solving, alone, is not only inadequate to interrupt white privilege, it undermines our efforts by generating unnecessary resistance. We suggest that the absolutely essential move From white privilege To racial equality is more effectively seen as a segment of an ongoing polarity energy system. When we can see it as a part of one or more key polarities, it will increase the attainability, speed, and sustainability of our efforts to interrupt white privilege, which in turn will support building relationships, and achieving justice faster and more sustainably.