Why Self-Knowledge


Why is Self-Knowledge Important?

For authentic relationships among people of colour, Indigenous people and white people, self-knowledge is necessary to help white people understand their relationships to race, racism, culture and difference. Moreover, it helps them to become aware of how they may consciously or unconsciously perpetuate white privilege or remain in a state of ignorance about how they collude in racism through their assumptions, beliefs and behaviours.

For example, white facilitators who do not have self-knowledge will expose participants to their un-accessed assumptions which will reinforce white privilege and normalcy, and thus perpetuate racism in their everyday practices and relationships. For racialized people, self-knowledge is important in order to process their daily lived experiences of racism so that they do not collude in their own oppression or the oppression of other racialized people.

In Canada, where white values and ideals are inherent in all institutional policies, practices and procedures, as well as in individual attitudes, beliefs and assumptions, it becomes difficult not to "think white." For racialized people, this means attempting to take on white values in an effort to "fit in" to the existing systems while at the same time being oppressed by the system because they are not white. For white people who do "fit in" to the existing systems there is a feeling of normalcy which plays out as white privilege and power. White people receive unearned benefits that they believe have been earned. It is impossible to understand and address the above discrepancies without self-knowledge. (See our glossary definitions of Internalized Racism/DominanceInternalized Racism/Oppression and White Privilege/White-Skin Privilege).

Related to self-knowledge is self-identification, or the ways we affiliate ourselves with one or a range of identity groups (racial or other) often multiple and shifting. We need to recognize the ways we and others respond to our ideas of identification, and how identification(s) play out in anti-racism work – who does the work and how? 

Click here to find a list of learning actions that address these issues through inventories and questionnaires.