On both Friday last week and Monday of this week the Critical Whiteness Studies class had two guests help lead a discussion. On Friday Krystal Grint a Training Specialist for the El Paso County Department of Human Services came to discuss how to talk about racial issues with people who are resistant. This was helpful for us for many reasons. Throughout this class we have created a safe space for everyone to talk about their experience. With the exception of Heidi, myself and one other Asian American girl our class of fourteen we are all “white” which means many white kids are talking about being white. This conversation is one that we have decided is super important because many white Americans don’t think about the fact they are white or what exactly that means and entails. That is what we are trying to tear down in this class, the wall that separates many whites from their racial identity. Because of this we are, as a class, trying to start a white club on campus. The title of this club is still to be determined but will most likely not be called white club. This will create a space for the white students on campus to get together and talk about their racial identity, I know that this is something that many people will laugh at or call the KKK but obviously this is something we are taking seriously and are prepared for (this is clearly not a group prepetuating white supremacy either). This will be a space for anyone to talk about white heritage, whether they know their own heritage or not this will be the place to ask questions and deconstruct whiteness as a whole. More details are to come on this topic but Grint was there to help us learn how to deal with opposition in a useful way. With this club we want start a discussion and educate others, not to impose our believes on anyone or take anyone down, we honestly believe it is important for everyone to have a safe space to talk about what role race plays in their lives and that yes, white is a race as well.
Grint had us come up with strategies, tools and efforts to having a respectful conversation with anyone on any topic that we may not see eye to eye with. Some of the most important ones for me were:
Not acting purely on emotions
Asking them questions to understand their views
Really listening to the answers they give you
Suspending your own judgment
Communicating accurately what you are trying to say
With these ideas in mind we were able to have a pretty passionate discussion between the differences of showing respect and having respect to get your point across. If one of the students from this class were trying to have a conversation with a KKK member we would know not to shout in their face wildly about how stupid we think they are and try to voice our opinions on them because nothing would be accomplished, trying to fight fire with fire. However we don’t actually have to respect their beliefs and values we just have to be able to hear them out (no matter how much that may hurt) and then calmly tell our side to the story. Maybe in the end we would get nowhere with them still but we also might make them question their beliefs and with the facts that we can give allow them to then do what they will with that. And that is what our club will be trying to accomplish as well. Not everyone is going to appreciate this club and there may even be some opposition but we know what the point is and we all stand behind it so as long as we can skillfully and respectfully have these conversations with our opposition we will be our minds successful.
Grint also had us do an interesting exercise where we all have bowls that represented our circle of people. There were other bowls in front of us with all different color beads, white, black, yellow, red, brown, and then she asked us questions about people in our lives and based on the question we picked the color bead that represents that person. The first question was the color of the last person we dated other examples were the author of the last book we read, our best friend, our hairdresser, our neighbor to the left of us, etc. At the end we all looked at our bowls and were able to see on a very small-scale the group of people who we surround ourselves by, most likely unconsciously. It was a fun activity and one I suggest you look into (attached is the picture of my bowl and some other strategies we came up with).
On Monday Dr.Stephany Spaulding the Assistant Professor of Women’s and Ethnic Studies and University of Colorado-Colorado Springs came in to continue this conversation about our white club. She has a focus in white masculinity and was able to help us with further understanding our reasons behind the club. Throughout class we have talked about white privilege and how many people are affected by it but what we talked about that has rarely come up in my studies before is about how white privilege negatively affects whites. How could this be you ask? Well it is complicated but think about this, white trash, hill-billy’s, etc. These are all terms we call people who we do not see fit in our dominate white society, we teach our boys to grow up strong and smart and to go to the right schools, study the right things and then take over the family business. What about those people who don’t want to or can’t do those things? What then? The current perceptions of what it means to be white hurts everyone and hopefully this club will help us talk about what else whiteness means in a constructive way.
That is enough for now but there is more to come on our formation of this club and I really hope that you’ll at least check it out. Thanks again to Krystal Grint and Dr.Stephany Spaulding for taking the time to talk with us!