The Chief Diversity Office at the University of Iowa hosted an event, “Exploring White Identity for Effective Allyship.”

The event was open to students, staff and community members who identify as white. Which seems inherently racist, to have an event that excludes all races except white people.

The description of the event states that identifying and recognizing white privilege is the first step to reducing tokenism and increasing responsibility among allies to eliminate racism:

“The Chief Diversity Office, in collaboration with several campus and community members, is offering this event for White-identified people to discuss Whiteness and its privileges with other White people. Too often when we discuss racial inequity we exclude the conversation about white identity. We are all part of the solution, and this opportunity to discuss the role of whiteness in racial justice is an important one.”

While white privilege was discussed at the event, it was strongly centered around racism in the United States. It began with a history of racism from white people throughout time, including slave ownership and police brutality. Also, stating that racism today can be as simple as stating that everyone has an equal opportunity in life or that everyone can get ahead if they try hard enough. These statements are racist because people in minority communities do not fail because they don’t try hard enough but because they are systematically disadvantaged.

The presentation included videos of people talking about the first time they experienced racism. One young white man from Austin, Minnesota stated in the video that he was from a very conservative town where the Boy Scouts flew a confederate flag in parades. Another women stated that she felt that she could not love her adopted cousins of a different race because of people’s judgments.

The video continued to state that “white people are privileged because they do not have to wake up and think about being white.” White privilege goes to the extent of not having to recognize the fact that you are white. It also includes but is not limited to, not being stopped by the police on a regular basis or not having your check or payment questioned at the grocery store.

Discussion among the participants were centered around the questions of,

  1. What does being white mean?
  2. When was the first time you experienced racism?
  3. When was the first time that you experienced people from different races?
  4. What is white privilege?
  5. What does it mean to not have to wake up and think about being white?
  6. What can we do to use our white privilege to help minority communities?

So what do we do with our white privilege? How do we overcome it? Ideas included using your privilege to point out subtle or blatant racism. Electing and appointing diverse people into office. Creating diversity in places of employment. Supporting legislation and policies that do advantage minority communities.

The event concluded with the statement, it is okay that you are white, you can not change the skin that you were born into but use your white privilege to help minority communities.

What do you think of the University of Iowa’s white privilege event? Let Hypeline know in the comments below!

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