The 7 Circles of Whiteness
Created By: Alishia McCullough M.S., LCMHCA, NCC
Edited By: Jardin Dogan, M.Ed., Ed.S., NCC
The seven circles of whiteness is a learning tool that puts a name to the myriad of ways that whiteness exist as a construct in American culture by highlighting specific behaviors and thinking patterns associated with each of the categories. The 7 Circles of Whiteness also explores the overlap within the way that whiteness exist. This learning tool uses the concept of a circle to represent the duality of sequence and overlap that exist within whiteness, which helps to unbind rigidity around the way that whiteness has historically been defined. The 7 Circles of Whiteness explores both the covert and overt ways that racism presents, and ends with the caveat that anti-racism is not a destination, but a continuous journey of learning and unlearning. The purpose of the 7 Circles of Whiteness tool is to provide language for the different ways that whiteness exist, promote self-reflection for white people, and defining what anti-racist ally-ship can look like. This tool also brings more conscious awareness to behaviors that Black, Indigenous, People of Color are experiencing by naming and validating those experiences through a visual graphic.
To provide language that helps people acknowledge and describe the different ways that whiteness exist in American culture while offering concrete behaviors and thinking patterns associated each category of whiteness.
To promote self-reflection for white people think deeply about conscious and subconscious behaviors and thoughts that contribute to the overt and covert harm towards Black, Indigenous, People of Color. This tool as defines lifelong anti-racist ally-ship, and encourages changed behavior, and brings awareness to the reality that white people can simultaneously exist in multiple circles. The circles deconstruct the rigidity of arriving completely arriving at any one level, and promotes the need for continual learning and unlearning.
To bring more consciousness to Black, Indigenous, People of Color who are interacting with white people within these circles. While empowering and validating BIPOC communities by offering language to name the experiences they are having with white people. This is also a tool to help BIPOC communities move away from explaining experiences and using this as a tool to protect their emotional wellness and safety.
Some people may not agree with the idea of putting characteristics and behaviors in circles, and may feel as if they are being labeled if they identify with behavior and characteristics of any specific circle(s).
Taking time to engage in self-reflection about the content of the circles may bring up difficult and/or uncomfortable emotions, and people may not identify with every characteristic or behavior in each of the circles.
The circles are not a all encompassing example of the many ways that racism exist within multiple systems, and they do not cover every characteristic or behavior associated with whiteness.
1) Did any of the circles resonate with you? If so, which circles did you resonate with?
2) What impact do specific characteristics and behaviors within the circles have on racially marginalized people? (you may not be able to answer this question, and this can be an area of growth)
3) Can you recall a specific situation that aligns with behaviors in the circle?
4) How has your engagement within the circles impacted racially marginalized people that you know or have interacted with? (you may not be able to answer this question, and this can be an area of growth)
5) What feelings came up for you as you read through each circle?
6) Why do you think those feelings came up for you?
7) Where do those feelings exist in your body? Can you connect to those feelings in your body, and gently acknowledge that they are there?
8) Identify three to five characteristics or behaviors that you would like to change within yourself?
9) What tangible actions within the circles do you need to do AND/OR stop doing?
10) Based on this tool how might you develop a plan to begin or continue anti-racist work?
McCullough, A., 2020. The 7 Circles of Whiteness. [Blog] Blackandembodied, Available at: <https://medium.com/@alishiamccullough/the-7-circles-of-whiteness-cb60e53d14e0> [Accessed 11 June 2020]
The 7 Circle of Whiteness
Image Description: The content below features slides that are formatted on a white background that are separated into 7 categories (starting from top to bottom) Circle 1: The White Terrorist, Circle 2: The Post Racial Believers, Circle 3: The Oblivious Instigators, Circle 4: The Needy Ally, Circle 5: The Passive Aggressive Oppressor, Circle 6: The Do “Gooder”, Circle 7: The Lifelong Student.