White Privilege Conference | Day One Fragments

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I am currently attending the White Privilege Conference with a team of leaders from around the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  We are hear to listen, to learn, to connect, to reflect.  I come to this space with humility.  I am grateful to be here with co-learners.  I am sharing my thoughts as I can–but there is much here to unpack.  This is only a beginning.  

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The first day of the White Privilege Conference has been holy and sacred space. I am so glad that I am here. This is a learning ground unlike any other I have been in.  

There is so much to write about, so much to say about how these things have affected me or what they have invited me to meditate on.   I will try to write more extensively when I have time to process after the conference (and give that reflection the time that is necessary to process appropriately).  

I am grateful that friends and others who know I am here are asking me to share what I am experiencing—and this post is a first attempt at that—but is also incomplete in many ways.

Below are quotes from the opening keynote today with Loretta Ross. Each one is a nugget of a deeper and more provocative question.  

As I listened to her through the lens of my various levels of privilege (those I acknowledge in myself and knowing there are other layers and levels of privilege that I have walled myself off from, yet that I seek to discover)–many thoughts and images came to me, which I will unpack in more detail as I can.

I am sharing what I had time to put down in notes, (even putting it down in this format feels inadequate to me), but I am also seeking to share as much as I can as I go along these next few days.

  • “Everybody swims in the sea of white supremacy.  Only some of us have enough privilege to even challenge it.”
  • “We need to create a movement of many people moving in the same way with one idea.”
  • “White supremacy was always about the ideology of the 1%.” (This means that we have to do movement building across borders and that intersectionality is the key to liberation.)
  • “How can you be a white woman and not understand voting rights?  Think about it disenfranchising women.”  
  • “White people hear “privileged whites” when you say white privilege.  They think to themselves, I work hard, my life sucks, I’m not the 1% (if they know what the 1% is).  We have to find a way to have a conversation that resonates with their reality and doesn’t beat them up.  The victim reality/game is a way that that whites use to inoculate themselves.”  
  • “The mainstream now says its racist to talk about racism.  This is a language coup.”  
  • “White supremacy and ignorance is about anger about anyone else they can ‘other.’   This is what we are here to look at.”
  • “I’m not the movement where you have to agree with me.  I’m the movement where you have to be with me in the struggle.  Struggling against white supremacy.”
  • “Call in, don’t call out.  That’s the way to build a movement. Don’t name call. Don’t show up with your identify wrong in the middle of thanksgiving dinner.”
  • “Need to do our work in a loving way.  Not a hurtful hateful way. We need to keep in mind who we are engaged in this work for.”  
  • “Need to constantly ask ourselves: Are we being strategic about who we are trying to work with?”  
  • “If you do not take people’s pain seriously, they won’t hear you.  Even if it doesn’t feel legit to you.  You have to take it seriously, you do not have to acknowledge it as true.”  
  • “Deflection is when we start talking about racism and somehow we end up on homophobia.”  
  • “Ask others what the words mean to them—to get them to join in on the conversation.  What does racism mean to you?”  
  • “The public education system is being deconstructed because it was forced to integrate.  That’s what we need to look at.”
  • “We don’t have a shared definition of justice or any other words.  This is where we need to start.”
  • “We are going to have to address that perception of victimhood in reverse racism if we want to get somewhere.”
  • “Storytelling is being repackaged as something for us to do to discover ourselves.”  
  • “Those who want to fight white supremacy need an Economics 101 class.  The 1% no longer needs the producers of the goods in order to have the goods.  That’s why the middle class is disappearing.”  
  • “Many times the economic facts are the connecting facts for those who want to listen.”
  • “Standing in solidarity doesn’t mean standing in front. You are then a problematic ally not an enemy.”  
  • “White supremacy normalized racial violence which then normalizes other violences.”
  • Provocative intersectional question: “Should shelters take in victims of racial violence who have nowhere to go, homophobic violence who have no where to go, not just for women who are beaten?  Where do we go with that?”

What wells up in you as you read some of this?  

What are the connections to the work of dismantling systems of power/domination/oppression that you engage?  

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