Photo credit to host.madison.com
Becoming Aware of White Privilege and Taking a Stand for Equality
This year marked the 15th Annual White Privilege Conference, which was held in Madison, WI on March 26th through the 29th. As explained on the White Privilege Conference website, "the conference examines challenging concepts of privilege and oppression and offers solutions and team building strategies to work toward a more equitable world." Many have a misunderstanding as to what this conference is about, with beliefs ranging from thinking it is designed to attack or degrade white people and even that its purpose is to rally white supremacist groups. Let me assure you-it is quite the opposite, with their core philosophy of "understanding, respecting and connecting."
The White Privilege Conference was established in 1999 and is organized by its founder, Dr. Eddie Moore Jr., and during this year's conference, many students from St. Scholastica were able to meet him. From St. Scholastica, there were a total of thirty-six students who were able to attend this conference, which is a stark difference when compared to the four students who attended last year. At the beginning of each day of the conference, there was a keynote speaker, then everyone in attendance was free to attend different workshops where upwards of 100 different themes were represented. Each workshop involved a facilitator, and explored individual issues such as cultural competence for social justice, diversity, marginalization and abolishing academic profiling.
Jamie Morrissette, president of Asian Student Union, chose to attend a communication impact lecture that discussed how each person had his or her own life experience in which they perceive every interaction. In addition to that lecture, she explained that, "My favorite workshop was about how to conduct research with people of underrepresented background that treats them with respect. I networked with people from institutions around the country and learned from their success (and mistakes) on how to effectively research. One gentleman I worked with taught at Princeton, so it was an honor to receive his suggestions."
Misha Cruz, another student who also attended the White Privilege Conference, described the conference as an "overwhelming experience." She stressed the importance of conferences such as these because, "The conference, for me, was about how big of a role race plays into the everyday lives of people of color - not many people are aware of this. It's about dismantling and learning about the system that allows people to be racially profiled, stopped and frisked, and whatnot."
By providing a safe and welcoming environment, the White Privilege Conference had the ability to examine issues that many feel uncomfortable discussing. Lourdes Bunay-Vivar, president of the Latino Student Union and also Amnesty International, said that, "I've never felt so much love in a room before! People were so open and felt safe enough to share personal experiences. I loved being in a place where I could talk about topics such as colorism, privilege, immigration and have the conversation continue, rather than being blocked like it usually is outside of the conference."
Every person that I had talked with about the White Privilege Conference had mentioned nothing but good things. According to The While Privilege Conference's website, more than 90% of conference participants report that they return home with new information, resources, and strategies for addressing issues of privilege and oppression. Also, the same percentage of people plans to attend future conferences and will recommend it to others.
In terms of Scholastica's participation in The White Privilege Conference next year, Morrissette explained, "Hopefully with the application of grant funding we apply for this year, we can continue the trip in the future." In addition to the conference, many of these same issues are discussed during the weekly meetings of student-led clubs such as Latino Student Union, Black Student Union, and Asian Student Union. If any of you are interested in dialogue concerning these important topics, feel free to stop by a meeting at any time, and together we can take the first step in being the change that we want to see in the world.