Five Questions with Keynotes

Five Questions with Eddie Moore, Jr.

Eddie Moore Jr

Eddie Moore Jr.

Eddie Moore, Jr. is founder and program director of the White Privilege Conference, Executive Director of the Privilege Institute, an activist and a scholar.

Q: Why is a conversation about white privilege important when trying to understand diversity?

A: You can’t talk diversity without talking white supremacy, white privilege and other issues of oppression. If we don’t take a more comprehensive approach, we often allow folks to skip past understanding the source of systemic oppression and inequities. Remember, white supremacy, white privilege and oppression were often part of the creation of many systems, organizations and institutions that still exist today. They were created by white men, for white men. If we want different results in systems, we must understand their original design. This knowledge is key to addressing today’s diversity issues. You can’t have one without the other. If we want more equity and inclusion, we have to be committed to examining, exploring and understanding issues of diversity, white supremacy and white privilege as interconnected. The time is now and the big question is: Are we ready?

Q: You started the White Privilege Conference (WPC) nearly 18 years ago, how has the conversation broadened and/or changed in that time?

A: The White Privilege Conference (WPC) has grown over the years. In addition to a dramatic increase in attendees, we have more diversity. Therefore, we’ve always planned the conference with a commitment to examining privilege comprehensively from an intersectional perspective. Everyone has some form of privilege; we’re just affected by it in different ways. Additionally, we have continued to evolve our programming. We have always invited a diverse group of presenters and keynotes that are committed to exploring all aspects of privilege. Plus, we have a different theme at the WPC every year. Lastly, as the world changes, we are determined to address the most pertinent issues and how they are related to our global past, present and future.

Q: Is discussion a road to change when it comes to privilege and equality?

A: Discussion is only the beginning. We can’t just talk about the issues, we must move to action. At the WPC, action is one of the most important components. WPC is committed to action, accountability and change.  Additionally, the WPC is committed to developing and strengthening relationships throughout the conference and conference planning process. In order to make progress, we need to work together more. When we work together, the chances we will see effective and systemic changes increases. Many people continue to come to the WPC to engage in deep conversations (beyond the surface) and strengthen relationships (beyond the superficial). The WPC is challenging, informative and action-oriented. We’re committed to advocating for peace, equity and justice for all.

Q: What is the significance of holding this WPC symposium (WPS) in Canada, at Brock University?

A: The WPC has flourished in the United States. We started in small-town America, (Iowa) in 1999 and since then have partnered with some major cities across the US including, but not limited to, Seattle, Memphis, Albuquerque and Philadelphia. We’ve done great work in the US and now we’re ready to go global. We’re excited for WPS-Canada (WPSC). Over the years, our country’s histories have been intricately interconnected around issues related to freedom, justice and equity for all. Plus, issues of diversity, power and privilege are highly relevant and pertinent in both countries. Additionally, more and more Canadians have been attending and contributing at the WPC by sharing research and taking action. We continue to benefit from the contributions of smart, courageous and committed Canadian academics and activists over the years. The WPSC is an opportunity for us to listen and learn more from Canadians, in Canada. The WPSC is an opportunity for us to continue understanding, respecting and connecting. Lastly, The WPSC is coming to Canada by invitation. Our Canadian friends agree, we are stronger working together. This is a great opportunity for us to address some tough issues related to diversity, power and privilege, courageously and collaboratively.

Q: Why should educators participate in this conversation?

A: Our key tenets of understanding, respecting, and connecting should be an essential part of every classroom/community. Therefore, we need to understand the systemic and institutional design embedded in educational systems and training of educators. We need more skills to create and infuse our tenets into the educational environments. This event is designed so educators can build and strengthen their skills and knowledge. With these enhanced skills, educators will be more effective leaders, teachers and role models for the youth they are serving and shaping in the 21st Century. We need to do more in order to help young people reach their full potential within an educational system that was not originally designed to serve all students.

 

Five questions with Shauneen Pete

Shauneen Pete

Shauneen Pete

Shauneen Pete is an Associate Professor at the University of Regina and is the Executive Lead on Indigenization of the university.

Q: Why is a conversation about white privilege important in Canada?

A: Whiteness is the unexamined norm in Canada. With it flows many privileges that contribute to entitlement and sense of superiority and the generalized belief in meritocracy. Where white dominance operates, othering emerges and forms a racial hierarchy that while rooted in our colonial past operates still especially in regard to First Nations and Inuit people. White dominance explains social inequality. The story of Canada is not a story about multiculturalism but a story of colonial white dominance: this truth must become a part of the social narrative we tell about ourselves.

Q:  How does your experience as an educator inform your understanding of white privilege?

A: I became a teacher nearly 30 years ago to transform the learning experiences of Indigenous children and youth in my province. Since 2001, I’ve been teaching courses in anti-oppressive education to white, middle-class mostly female pre-service education students. I work with the hope that some of them will take up the social justice and anti-oppressive work that I model as one way of disrupting dominance in educational systems. By this I mean, I hope that they will revise curricular, expand pedagogical practices, participate in a broad range of relationships with diverse peoples, and work alongside Indigenous peoples towards reconciliation. Unfortunately many of them have taught me that they won’t do this work because they perceive it as too uncomfortable – when all they risk is social inclusion. The pressure to conform in our profession is very high and many do not take the risks to change the system, rather they leave that work to more marginalized educators.

Q: In your role at the University of Regina, you are working to indigenize the university. What does that mean?

A: Indigenization works towards the transformation of the academy through the reformation of all systems within the university. It requires university decolonization to identify the places where colonial ignorance is invisible, unquestioned and unchallenged and works toward changing those systems. For me, Indigenization begins with a revision of hiring and promotion policies as well as the recruitment of Indigenous peoples to board governance. In this way, Indigenous leadership and vision can more respectfully be included in reformation efforts. I believe we have a responsibility as educators to critically examine curricula and pedagogical practice to ensure that we better reflect our communities and a more accurate portrayal of our historical and contemporary challenges. At the U of R, Indigenization also includes faculty development toward academic Indigenization; Indigenous research capacity building; Indigenous student support; and community engagement. Indigenization and decolonization acknowledges white dominance in the academy and works to name it, and work towards the inclusion of other than dominant ways of knowing.

Q: In what ways can society start moving towards greater equality for all people?

A: Indigenous peoples have been freely offering the gift of learning since the early days of settlement. Over time, white dominance ensured that members of the dominant group minimized, denied, and in some cases violently rejected the offer of the gift of learning. In order to achieve the dream of reconciliation, members of the dominant group and those new Canadians who align with them, must learn the truths of our racialized past and begin to practice anti-racism in their personal and professional lives. This is the white work needed for reconciliation to be achieved. Reconciliation is not one-sided; it requires the participation of members of the dominant group for reformed relationships to be achieved.

Q: Why should white privilege matter to white people?

A: White folks have an identity and marginalized peoples are very familiar with how it operates in society; but those closer to norm often never think about their identities as anything but individual – they express the narrative that they are good people and therefore innocent of historical and contemporary wrongdoing on the part of dominant groups. It’s easy for them to distance themselves from membership in the dominant group; and in some cases they adamantly deny that they are white. Members of the dominant group need to recognize that their experiences are shaped by their identity; that privileges flow because of their membership in the same way privilege is denied to racialized minorities. They must recognize that their social positioning has led to the luxury of ignorance (Howard) and that this hinders their ability to work/study/live/relate within diverse communities. If white people are committed toward reconciling relationships with Indigenous peoples, they must take an earnest look at white privilege. They must be willing to unpack it or I will never believe that they honestly want to reconcile anything.

 

Five questions with Debby Irving

Debby Irving

Debby Irving

Debby Irving is a racial justice educator and writer, former adjunct Professor from Wheelock College and author of Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story or Race.

Q: Why is a conversation about white privilege important?

A: Conversation is the way human beings think together. When any topic becomes taboo, our ability to think about it collectively is obstructed. White privilege in particular, and racism in general, are topics that most white people have little experience discussing. Without discussion, topic-specific language skills aren’t acquired, making the whole endeavour clumsy and frightening. It’s a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle. Consequently, most white people remain uneducated about what white privilege actually means and why it matters. Most people associate the term privilege with wealth. In fact, privilege refers to access to rights, resources and other societal benefits. One way to think about privilege is as the opposite of discrimination. Discrimination couldn’t exist without privilege, and vise versa. White privilege refers specifically to racial privilege, the access to rights, resources and other benefits a person in the privileged racial group gets simply for being a member of that group.

Q: When did you first start to understand white privilege and the role it has played in your life?

A: I grew up thinking the US playing field was level; that hard work alone helped you attain the American Dream. Language about this idea was drilled into my head: land of opportunity, land of the free. It wasn’t until age 48 when a graduate school course forced me to study US policy around who could and couldn’t get a land grant, become a citizen, receive police and legal protection, live in which neighborhood, receive social security, or attain GI Bill benefits. As I came to understand the degree to which my white family had had preferential access to rights, resources, and other benefits, I realized that being white had provided a tailwind. Sure my family worked hard and were good, honest people, and, that tailwind sure helped them climb the social mobility ladder, as they accessed preferential housing, education, food, transportation, medical care and government handouts.

Q: How does your experience as a self-identified white woman inform your understanding of white privilege?

A: The graduate school course demarcated my identity as a white woman. Before the course I thought of white as normal, the race against which all others were measured. I thought of myself as a good person, eager to help “the needy.” The course helped me see that those I’d been taught to see as less-than a) had been put in that position by a racial caste system b) had been under resourced so that my racial group could be over resourced, and c) didn’t want my patronizing help. Once I saw myself in a system with people, the idea of a we/them lost its power and my justice passions focused on our shared system of inequity. I understand that as long as racial oppression exists, racial privilege exists. Though I can’t do anything to give my privilege away, I can leverage my privilege to create more equitable cultures and organizations.

Q: In what ways can society start moving towards greater equality for all people?

A: The first step is understanding that historical and present-day equities exist. Skipping this step sets white people up to perceive people of color as demanding, overly sensitive, ungrateful and angry. The second step is to create equity, which is different than equality. Equality is when everyone gets the same thing; equity is when people get what they need. Affirmative action and reparations are examples of programs designed to create equity, yet if one doesn’t understand the inequities these programs seek to address, they’re often perceived as handouts to people who don’t deserve them, thereby reaffirming old patterns of resentment, mistrust, and fear on all sides. Racial justice education, opportunities for cross-racial relationships, and truth and reconciliation circles are three examples of that critical first step required to break down the barriers of avoidance and ignorance that perpetuate injustice.

Q: Why should white privilege matter to white people?

A: I’ll speak for myself on this one. It matters to me that what benefits me does not require that others be damaged to make that possible. I also believe that no organization, community, or country can thrive when entire populations are dehumanized and marginalized. People who are stuck in survival mode can’t possibly thrive and contribute in ways that benefit all. There is a material and psychological cost that unjust systems create as divisions and tensions spawn illness, hostility, and even crime. Wouldn’t we all be better off with a society of thriving people fully invested and equipped to be innovative, creative, and productive while also being generous and community-minded? To me, justice for all is a prerequisite for any individual or community interested in attaining a joyful, connected and abundant life.

 

Five Questions with Ritu Bhasin

Ritu Bhasin

Ritu Bhasin

Q: Why is a conversation about white privilege important?

A: It’s critical to raise awareness about the ways in which privilege is entrenched in our societal structures, and how this privilege helps certain groups get ahead while leaving other groups behind. Here’s how I think of privilege: those with privilege have an automatic red carpet rolled out for them, and those without privilege not only lack access to the automatic red carpet, they also have to fight to get that access. The core problem is that all of this is unearned – it’s simply a direct result of possessing certain cultural identity characteristics. Given our history, people with white skin experience this automatic privilege whereas people of colour are disadvantaged. We all need to be talking about this – and in Canada in particular, we have not been having these conversations.

Q: Who should be taking part in discussions about white privilege?

A: In short – everyone. White privilege isn’t something that concerns only white people or only people of colour – it concerns us all. Everyone in society needs to be part of the discussion about how to address power and privilege.

Many people of colour have these discussions behind closed doors with each other, but not directly with white people. It’s critical that everyone be included in this conversation – white people who have the privilege need to be able to take ownership of their piece of this issue. Until we sit together on this, change won’t happen. Which is why the White Privilege Symposium is such a great platform for conversation – it’s a wider, more inclusive, and much needed conversation about privilege.

Q: In what ways can society start moving towards greater equality for all people?

A: We need to raise awareness about and address the biases, blindspots, judgments and assumptions that we hold about marginalized communities – both individually and systemically. It’s critical that we work together on addressing the systems of power and privilege while taking ownership of our own individual place and responsibility in this system. In my work, I’m increasingly talking about the importance of authenticity in addressing privilege and inclusion – encouraging individuals to understand and bring their authentic selves to bear in more situations. By learning how to strategically express our true selves more often – particularly the aspects of our identities that we are consistently told to push down or hide in favour of sameness – we create an environment where others can do the same. Each one of us has a lot of self-work to do in order to change the system.

Q: Your talk is titled: “Breaking the Shackles of Oppression & Addressing Privilege: Rise through the Authenticity Principle,” how do you suggest that can be done?

A: This ties back to the idea of authenticity – which is the core theme of my upcoming book, The Authenticity Principle. At the Symposium, I’ll be talking about this concept, and why it is that I’ve identified authenticity as a critical component of empowering people of colour. I’ll address: how authenticity shows up in our personal and professional lives; the structural and systemic barriers that we face as people of colour; and most importantly the self-limiting barriers that we struggle with – like internalized bias, the impostor syndrome, and minimization. I’ll focus on the strategies for individual self-work around authenticity which, as a result of my years of leadership and inclusion work, I truly believe is the key to both empowerment and inclusion.

Q: Why does diversity matter in the workplace?

A: Diversity in the workplace is important in that it tells us which groups are represented within our organizations – for example, the number of people of colour, women and members of other diverse groups who are present. But this is strictly quantitative – the more important piece when it comes to creating change within the workplace is inclusion.

Inclusion is the qualitative experience: do diverse professionals feel that they have equal access to opportunities within their organization? Do they feel that they are able to bring their differences to work, and that they can leverage these differences for success? In my global work with organizations, this is where I focus. Inclusion is where real change lives – and it’s through inclusion that we can better distribute power and privilege throughout all echelons of our society.

 

Five Questions with Jasiri X

Jasiri X Photo Credit Heather Mull

Jasiri X
Photo Credit Heather Mull

Jasiri X is a rap artist, mentor, educator and founder of One Hood Media. He will be presenting a keynote address and workshop at the upcoming White Privilege Symposium at Brock University Sept. 30-Oct.1. The following is a Q&A with Jasiri X.

Q: Why is a conversation about white privilege important?

A: White privilege has permeated every vestige of society. It is imperative that we acknowledge the fact that white privilege exists and its implications in employment practices, loans approvals, housing and education. The importance lies not only in acknowledging its existence, but in working collectively to dismantle it. If we really want equity, we must accept that the way things in our society being white gives you added privileges that manifest in overall cultural relevancy and other life experiences.

Q: How does your experience as a hip-hop artist inform your understanding of white privilege?

A: Being immersed in the Hip Hop culture has exposed me to socially conscious artists such as KRS 1, Public Enemy, XClan, Nas, Wutang Class and Lauryn Hill, to name a few. Their work pointed me towards different books and alternative sources of education. When they would name different artists, books, and concepts in their rhymes, it would encourage me to seek knowledge outside of a standard classroom setting. Hip Hop artists introduced me to a variety of concepts and gave me the encouragement to pursue an education beyond what I learned in school. Hip Hop sparked my interest in history and the intersection between past and present. Hip Hop has always been intelligent and encouraging, pointing you towards knowledge of self. I would say that Hip Hop has helped shape my perspective and made me a more informed human being.

Q: Who should be taking part in discussions about white privilege?

A: Everybody. White people who have privilege and those of us negatively affected by it. The discussion of dismantling external and internalized white privilege is both necessary and timely. The existence of white privilege or white supremacy not only does harm to the black and brown people it impacts, but it does harm to white people. It is easy to see how it affects people of colour, we see the results of it on a regular basis. But the impact on white people is subtler, indicated in culture and handed down generation to generation, in a way that secures your privilege.

Q: In what ways can society start moving towards greater equality for all people?

A: One way is to begin to look at the reality of white supremacy and its effect on the entire world. In 2016, we have people saying racism doesn’t exist. Just this week, Kathy Miller, Donald Trump’s Ohio campaign chair, stated “racism didn’t exist until Obama came into office.” A number of adults, despite the facts, share her sentiment. Until we acknowledge race matters in our navigation of a white supremacist society, we can never reach greater equality.

Q: What is socially conscious rap and what is its power in today’s world?

A: Socially conscious rap is Hip Hop music that wants to inform the listener by presenting ideas, information and facts to raise awareness. In our fast moving society where most of our news is consumed online, someone may not read a book/article or watch a documentary. Music allows me to put together a short thre-minute synopsis with a dope beat and hook that allows a person access to new ideas and concepts that may spur them towards seeking greater information. It’s a tool to introduce people to ideas they might not have listened to if not put into a rhyme and beat form.

 

Five Questions with Jada Monica Drew

Jada Monica Drew

Jada Monica Drew

Jada Monica Drew is an author and diversity training expert. She will be presenting a keynote address and workshop aimed at youth at the upcoming White Privilege Symposium at Brock University Sept. 30-Oct.1. The following is a Q&A with Drew.

Q: Why is a conversation about white privilege important for youth to participate in?

A: Youth experience the effects of white privilege daily, whether they know it or not. It is important for youth to have a space to express their feelings, share their thoughts, and to work to make sense of the inequity they notice and feel daily.

Q: What is SNAP and how does it assist youth in pushing for social change?

The acronym SNAP mean See Name Act Proceed. This is the framework we present to the youth as a way to structure the Youth Action Project experience. We discuss the many ways we SEE or witness how white privilege is enacted and demonstrated in our lives and the lives of others. White privilege plays out differently regionally, nationally and even in different socioeconomic classes. The youth work collectively with the adult leaders to NAME white privilege. This means we all work towards a shared definition. The process of creating and developing shared language is a valuable tool for awareness and understanding that leads towards change. We strategize with the youth to generate methods for ACTION. These acts can include starting a school club, hosting a group meeting, or sharing knowledge with peers and family members. The YAP team believes in the power and the voice our youth have and we make space for them to brainstorm how to create action, but also to think about long-term sustainability. We share examples of what it looks like to PROCEED after YAP and after a short-term action.

Q: In your experience, how are youth best reached and engaged on social issues?

A: In my experience, they are best reached by allowing space, room and intense listening. Youth have so much to say and they also have so many solutions. However, adults get in the way by simply not allowing them to share. Engaging them in their language is important as well. Social media is led by youth. I bring in social media and multimedia tools to engage them. Over the years, the YAP experience has been led more and more by youth leaders. Research shows that peers learn best from peers.

Q: What can adults do to help empower and inspire youth to get involved?

A: Adults can do 3 things:

1. Work hard every day to understand their own privileges (adult, race, religion, gender, class, language, etc) and to uncover their actions of bias.
2. Create innovative space for youth to share.
3. Listen to the ideas of our youth and support them to act without trying to make their ideas fit into your way of doing things.

Q: In what ways can society start moving towards greater equality for all people?

A: This answer requires a dissertation. In short, our motto at Social Designs is Historic Truth-Telling + Building Relationships + Creative Action = Social Justice. To achieve equity, we need to learn about historic and contemporary systemic laws, acts, and policies that have deliberately been put in place to advantage some people over others. It is also important that we have engaging and tough dialogue in mixed spaces to better understand each other. Then we must act. We must create innovation solutions for the inequity that is in space. These solutions have to be long-term and not quick Band-Aid fixes.