Reflections on the 2017 White Privilege Conference
In cooperation with and financial support from the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC), the Quaker Affairs Office was able to send three Haverford students to the 18th annual White Privilege Conference in Kansas City, MO. This year’s participants were: Sonia Copple '19, Hayle Meyerhoff '20, and Maurice Rippel '19.
Hayle and Maurice reported back for the group:
This weekend, I was given the incredible gift to attend the White Privilege Conference in Kansas City. In a whirlwind of workshops, keynotes, and conversations with new people, I further confronted my own whiteness and gained new understanding about how whiteness impacts every facet of our lives. Heather Hackman’s workshop about the intersection between racial justice and climate justice connected capitalism, sexism, and whiteness to humans’ exploitation of nature. She talked about how possession and ownership is part of whiteness: instead of sharing a lawn mower in a white neighborhood, everyone has their own lawn mower, and spends time in their own fenced in backyards rather than connecting with neighbors. This idea of rugged individualism is what drives consumer culture, and therefore, the extraction of resources from the natural environment. Hackman explained how we personify nature as a woman to justify our desecration of her body, and how we use capitalism to justify profiteering off land we stole. The keynotes introduced me to thinkers like Dr. Hsiao-Wen Lo and Dr. Michael Eric Dyson who each, in their own way, shared about their emotional journeys of rejecting the indoctrination of white supremacy, and coming to terms with their own identities as people of color. They reminded me that white supremacy is taught to us through socialization and history, and undoing it requires constant daily effort. I am grateful for the opportunity to be among a group of people committed to dismantling white supremacy, and I am especially grateful that I got to share this experience with inspiring Haverford peers. They are just two of the many students on this campus who pour their hearts into creating equality. This was the 18th year of the White Privilege Conference, proving that fighting inequality is a long and arduous process. Thank you all for your perseverance.
I laughed. I cried. I learned and loved every moment. My experience at the White Privilege Conference was nothing short of transformative. I went to a workshop facilitated by Paul C. Gorski, an educator that I've followed in several of my classes; I listened to a keynote by Dr. Michael Eric Dyson as he poured his soul on the stage and admitted even as a middle-aged man, a professor at Georgetown and a preacher, he cannot escape racism and does not even drive his own car out of fear of being pulled over while Black. He stated that every generation has to undue racism, and as he signed a book by him that I bought, that I have to be a part of leading that charge. In an address by Dr. Hsiao-Wen Lo, I was moved by her inquiry of, 'What if money no longer equals power? What if kindness equals power?' During my caucuses with other college students of color, I realized that Haverford already does a lot of good compared to other institutions--that is we have physical spaces on campus such as the BCC and MCC for students from marginalized backgrounds, and we have gender neutral bathrooms in our dorms; yet we still have a lot of work to do. Ultimately, I leave the WPC energized, and prepare to challenge structures at Haverford and do my part in creating a more equitable and inclusive campus.
If you are interested in attending the WPC in the future, contact Walter Hjelt Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.