“It’s in Springfield, Massachusetts and it lasts four days.”
“The White Privilege Conference?”
“Yeah. Holly and I are going. We’re screening Traces of the Trade and I’ll be discussing Inheriting the Trade. It’s a perfect opportunity to interact with hundreds of people who share a commitment to justice and equality.”
“Why would they name a conference after the very thing they’re trying to undo?”
My daughter looked a bit incredulous about the conference I was about to attend when we spoke about it a couple weeks ago. We had a good chuckle over the name. After attending I now hope she’ll attend the White Privilege Conference with me next year in Memphis.
The mission of the WPC, having just concluded its 9th annual iteration, is to serve as a yearly opportunity to examine and explore issues of white privilege, diversity, multicultural education, multicultural leadership, social justice, race/racism, sexual orientation, gender relations, and other systems of privilege/oppression. It provides participants the opportunity to get honest about the type of society in which we live, and the advantages that accrue to some but not others. The conference offers a means to develop and sustain ongoing work to dismantle this system of white privilege, white supremacy, and oppression.
Keynote speakers discussed issues that ranged from what its like to be a Korean-adopted American to education theories based on erroneous race and poverty paradigms; from the role of song in social justice to disturbing realities about racism on college campuses.
Workshops covered such a range of topics that we had to select a few knowing that we’d miss a large number of sessions of equal interest. I went to workshops on the Middle East, story telling, the impact of oppression on both the oppressed and the oppressors, the daily impact of Christianity in society, and white privilege in mainstream media. Which meant I missed sessions on racism in the mental health field, the complexity of Jews, Whiteness, and Identity, whether Huck Finn belongs in the classroom, dealing with defensiveness and denial, and dumb things that well-intentioned people say among dozens of others.
Each night after dinner provided several choices to watch films. I took in two from filmmaker Shakti Butler. I missed out on Banished, a film by the same producer as Two Towns of Jasper, that I look forward to seeing soon.
But mostly I’m glad I attended, and plan to attend in the future, because of the people I met. Being surrounded by 600 colleagues who are dedicated to ending silence, to being aware, to ending racism and other forms of oppression, to building authentic and honest relationships provides me with support, partnership, and hope.
And I like the name. It’s what it is. Might as well face it straight up, eh?