White Privilege Conference 9 Springfield, MA April 2 - 5, 2008
For the third consecutive year, ARSJ presented at the annual White Privilege Conference (WPC). ARSJ led an advanced workshop entitled, "Real Talk: Accountability on the Long Road to Liberation." The purpose of the workshop was to engage participants in a dialogue and inquiry about the dangers of behaviors associated with "the good white liberal".
As a point of reference prior to the workshop, the Institute for Family Services and Affinity Counseling group respectively presented the definition of white allies as a compared to white liberals. Illustrating the work of Dr. Rhea Almeida and the Affinity Counseling group as well as a study done by the "Just Therapy Team" from New Zealand - Charles Waldegrave, Kiwi Tamasese, Flora Tuhaka and Warihi Campbell - facilitators defined three barriers that white people experience when becoming allies: paralyzing, individualizing and patronizing. All three of the behaviors happen when a white liberal is challenged with his or her own racism and oppressions.
The presenter then introduced three behaviors that white liberals can engage in to move beyond liberalism:
Dismantling white privilege
Raising critical consciousness
Connecting to socially just communities.
ARSJ members moved on to facilitate a socio-educational session using clips fro the movies Hotel Rwanda and Mississippi Burning to help deconstruct behavior of white liberals. Workshop participants discussed how both movies hold the history oh how white liberals have "tried to help" people of color over the last 40 years. The following questions engaged a critical dialogue:
In what ways did white allies empower or disempower the people of color in these scenarios?
How would it have been different or similar if the white allies had been connected to a socially just community?
The workshop concluded with an interactive dramatization and role playing involving facilitators and audience members. This well-received format forged dynamic energetic discussions, new ideas, awareness and understandings of strategies for resistance and collaboration that are fostered through accountability.
"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality." - Desmond Tutu