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My Journey of Personal Discovery

After Learning About My Family’s Past and Truly Understanding My Privilege, It’s Time Now to Do Something About It

Article by Allison Dredge

Photography by Stephen Neilson

Originally published in SW Lake Lifestyle

I was born and raised in Atlanta on fried chicken, grits and “Gone with the Wind."  

In school I said the Pledge of Allegiance and learned about the American Dream. If I worked hard, applied myself, got a good education and a good job, I could buy a house and retire with a nice nest egg. 

In my family I’m the only one to leave the South. After raising my children on the North Shore for 25 years, and then moving to Barrington, I heard the term “white privilege” for the first time recently. 

In “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” Peggy McIntosh writes about “unearned advantages that white people have relative to people who are nonwhite. It is the absence of suspicion and other negative reactions that white people experience.” I have a life with many advantages. Some I earned, some not. I see now that the American Dream is not accessible to all. 

Thinking about what I was taught on race in America, I realize there were big gaps following the Civil War: things like Jim Crow Laws, mass incarceration, white flight and redlining. The more I dig, a picture emerges that paints something entirely different for people who aren’t white like me.

History is even more personal since I descended from slave owners in the early 19th century. I am sad and upset about my link to this part of the American story. Further discovery revealed that another ancestor bought 58 slaves, a few at a time, to help them gain freedom in the North. 

There is so much I don’t know about the racial issues we face today but I am determined to relearn American history, educate myself about racial problems and find ways to use my white privilege to help change things.  

Interested in joining Allison Dredge on a journey of personal discovery? Email her at