White Awake combats white supremacy by focusing on educational resources and spiritual practices designed to engage people who’ve been socially categorized as “white” in the creation of a just and sustainable society.
In the current historical moment, with multiple crisis coming to a head, white people have a pressing need to understand our true nature and how that nature is different from who we are socialized and manipulated to be. To fully engage with the demands of social change, people who are socially categorized as “white” need an identity more substantial than capitalist consumer or prized citizens of an oppressive nation state. We need to know ourselves as children of this earth, humans among other humans, with an undeniable stake in building a just and life sustaining society that works for all.
Alongside externally focused social engagement – activism, civil disobedience, electoral politics, solidarity organizing, and all other ways we are called to meet the pressing demands of our time – each of us is tasked with the work of untangling truth from lies, uncovering hidden stories, and purifying our hearts. It is this work of education, spiritual healing, and building culture that White Awake is designed to support as part of a larger, integrated movement for healthy social change.
Because of the unique way in which “white” people are socialized within the hierarchical system of white supremacy, White Awake provides caucus spaces where our participants can develop accurate self knowledge in a focused, supportive environment. We bring historical, economic, and political analysis together with emotional and spiritual tools to help white people:
- Reject the lies and toxic social conditioning that comes with membership in a dominant group, and see through the use of racism as a manipulative device that materially benefits a small number of powerful elites.
- Connect with the true nature of our own histories, stories, and hearts; practice and share life affirming cultural expressions.
- Understand our stake in healthy social change, respond to our unique calling, and sustain our engagement in broad-based coalitions to resist current abuses of power and co-create a truly equitable, life sustaining society.
White Awake provides curriculum, resources and support to a growing network of individuals and communities who want to dismantle and decondition white supremacy. We do this through:
- accessible online and in-person workshops
- informative social media presence, blog and newsletter
- a web-based leadership network that supports a growing international leadership base
- a website with free curriculum, best practices for white caucusing and group learning, and links to external resources.
The country of origin of this work is the United States, and the materials on this site deal primarily with the historical and current conditions of racism and colonization this country. Our network of followers is growing to include white people in Canada, parts of Europe, and other nation states founded in European colonialism. We welcome all, and look forward to growing in strength together.
May we change the legacy of white supremacy we have inherited and join with the rest of humanity to build a sane and just society.
Eleanor Hancock – activist, educator, and artist
Director and co-founder of White Awake, Eleanor manages all of the daily functioning of White Awake, including content and curriculum development through White Awake’s online workshops, newsletter, and blog. Her leadership grows out of years of experience as an academic, activist, artist, educator, and mom.
Eleanor holds an MFA from the University of Madison-Wisconsin, where she began a study of whiteness in the context of performance art, identity politics, and critical postmodern theory. She has trained directly with Joanna Macy in facilitation of the Work that Reconnects, served on the Steering and Accountability Team of the DC Chapter of Showing up for Racial Justice, and contributed to the work of the SURJ National Faith Leaders team.
As the white mother of a biracial daughter, and Eleanor has had unique life experiences in a variety of settings in which she has been the racial “minority”. Experiencing the leadership of folks of color, respectfully integrating herself into different cultural communities, and expanding her understanding of society as a result is integral to the work Eleanor presently does.
Building White Awake from a small website to a nationally focused organization has put Eleanor in a position to learn from a wide variety of leadership in a concentrated period of time. For more about how Eleanor frames her work, you can listen to this recent podcast from A Worldview Apart.
White Awake grows from the insight and voices of a variety of contributors within this field. Most notable are those who have contributed to our most recent online workshop series, including:
Andy Banks – labor organizer
“If their strategy is to divide, ours has to be to unite.”
Andy Banks has been a labor and social justice organizer and educator his entire adult life. He grew up in the Jim Crow South where his family was actively engaged in civil rights. As a student Andy was devoted to fighting racism and bringing an end to the Vietnam War.
As a union organizer in the South, Andy learned first hand how companies pit white and black workers against one another to keep unions out and wages impoverished. He also learned that by helping white and black workers join forces the misery of low wage workers can be wiped out in a single generation.
Currently Andy directs the Strategic Campaigns Unit at the Teamsters Union. He draws inspiration for his anti-racism work from Anne Braden and Myles Horton. Andy serves on the White Awake board, and co-created the online workshop series Beyond Identity: race, class, power … and winning the world we need.
David Dean – educator and writer
David Dean is passionate about healing the psychological impact of systemic oppression on youth most vulnerable to its violence, and within people made dominant by it. In doing so, he believes we can find the strength and understanding we need to contribute to the creation of a just society. He has sought to do this as coordinator of a summer youth activism program called The Unity Hoops Project, as an advocate for restorative discipline in schools, and as a facilitator supporting men to overcome hyper-masculine social expectations. Read more about David’s personal social justice story here.
David has made a singular contribution to White Awake’s curriculum and analysis with his research and writing on the story of European migration and invasion from the perspective of the common people. David places a special focus on loss of original culture and identity, as well as how socialization into “whiteness” was used to prevent poor and working class European immigrant participation in multiracial resistance to economic exploitation.
Darcy Ottey – mentor and consultant
Darcy Ottey has been exploring the role of ceremony in building healthy community since her rite of passage at age 13. She recently helped to birth Youth Passageways, a diverse network of individuals, organizations, and communities working to support the initiation of young people into mature adulthood in these transition times.
As an initiated European-American woman (British/Ukrainian descent), she is passionate about helping people who are disconnected from traditional rites of passage reclaim and create rites and practices meaningful and relevant in their lives and communities at this time, in ways that are in solidarity with the liberation with all Peoples, and all beings. Darcy currently consults with programs and organizations on topics related to rites of passage and social justice.
Darcy is co-creator and co-lead of the White Awake workshop series Before We Were White: ceremony and ancestral recovery for anti-racist action.
Current board members of the project include: Ruby Grad (former board member of Spirit Rock Meditation Center), Heather Fercho (Theravada/Insight practitioner, and leader of Rose City Rebel Dharma meditation group), and Andy Banks (Campaigns Director, International Brotherhood of Teamsters).
Advisers include: Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Sensei (founder, Center for Transformative Change); Katrina Messenger (founder, Reflections Mystery School); Meck Groot (Justice Ministries Lead for the New England Region of the UUA); and Tara Brach (guiding teacher and founder, Insight Meditation Community of Washington).
White Awake™ is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. All donations are tax deductible.
Our name is trademark protected, to maintain the integrity of our mission and work within the larger field of anti-racism education. We encourage you to use our materials, but not our name.
The seed of this project started with a small group of Insight Buddhist practitioners in Washington, DC who, as white allies to practitioners of color within their local sangha, wanted to educate themselves about race. The group called themselves “White Awake”, and held two six-month sessions exploring white privilege, the second of which was largely self-facilitated. They received guidance from two socially engaged Buddhist teachers: Cheri Maples (policewoman and Dharma teacher who did groundbreaking work bringing mindfulness to criminal justice professionals); and Arinna Weisman (an Insight meditation teacher with a childhood steeped in the Anti-Apartheid solidarity struggle of South Africa, her country of origin).
Around this same time, a group of environmental and social justice advocates organized a workshop for local activists, educators and community leaders with Joanna Macy at the Stone House (Mebane, NC) in the spring of 2012. Joanna Macy, a Buddhist scholar and long time advocate for peace and environmental sustainability, led 30 participants in 10 days of intensive practice in the Work that Reconnects (WTR).
An interchange between these two groups came about when Kristin Barker (one of the co-founders of “White Awake”) met Eleanor Hancock (an organizer of the WTR workshop in Mebane,) and began to share about the white caucus experience she was having in DC. As these two advocates for social and environmental justice exchanged ideas, it became apparent that the seed contained within the original “White Awake” experience held great potential for a wide audience of participants.
Building off of the original “White Awake” curriculum developed by the DC based Insight meditation practitioners, integrating select aspects of the WTR, and incorporating her own personal experience and study of race and identity, Eleanor created the White Awake website in 2013 (working closely with Kristin Barker in the process). During this same time period Eleanor offered a series of workshops for the Insight Meditation Community of Washington (with which many of the original “White Awake” study group participants had an affiliation) that integrated mindfulness and Work that Reconnects practices into a racial awareness training for white people. These workshops became the basis for the online White Awake Manual, hosted on this site.
White Awake has grown from these humble beginnings with support from Tara Brach, the Brach Foundation, the Insight Community of Washington (which was fiscal sponsor for White Awake in the first several years of its development), and many other donors and supporters.
A four and a half year old organization, White Awake has directly served over two thousand people through our trainings, workshops, and Leadership Network. We currently offer training, resources, networking opportunities and other forms of support to over 4,000 people.
White Awake is not a Buddhist organization, nor does it take a distinctly Buddhist approach to anti-racism education. White Awake brings historical, economic, and political analysis together with emotional and spiritual tools from a broad spectrum of practices to serve our diverse and growing network.
last updated July, 2018