Speaking In Circles: Indigenous Identity and White Privilege

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Downey, Adrian
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Mount Saint Vincent University
This thesis explores white-seeming privilege, a term developed by the author to describe the specific experience of racial privilege in individuals who look white but primarily identify with a different ethnic label. The term is discussed though its connection with different theory areas, namely whiteness, white privilege, tribal critical race theory, Indigenous knowledge, Indigenous identity, racial passing, and settler colonialism. Drawing philosophical influence from both the Indigenous research paradigm and arts-informed research, the author uses personal storytelling, poetry, and written narrative to more fully describe the concept of white-seeming privilege. The author argues that in the specific context of Indigenous people who seem white, racial privilege must be situated in a deep understanding of settler-colonialism and uses his own family history of colonization to illuminate the way settler colonialism colours, but does not diminish, his understanding of his own white-privilege. Framed as a talking circle discussion between two parts of his identity, the Indigenous and the white, the author combines Indigenous ways of knowing with Western academic knowledge, generating what some have referred to as trans-systemic knowledge and ultimately achieving reconciliation between his selves—an act that can serve as a model for reconciliation on a wider scale.
White privilege, racial privilege, indigenous identity