Monday, April 22, 2013

The White Privilege Conference

In the second week of April, I attended the 14th annual White Privilege Conference (WPC), held this year in Seattle. More than 2000 people of all races - students, educators, nonprofit staff, social workers, counselors, parents and activists - attended this year's gathering, "The Color of Money," focusing on the intersections of class and race.

WPC, founded by African American educator Eddie Moore, "aims to create a learning community in which participants engage in a challenging educational experience as respectful community members." At the opening ceremony, Moore reminded the attendees that the work was grounded in relationships. "Some things," he told us, "are non-negotiable: handshakes and hugs." A Community Agreement emphasizes the philosophy of “understanding, respecting and connecting.”

I presented a workshop (twice) on using children's books to spark conversations about class and race (next post). My experience was abundantly challenging and educational, and the community was indeed full of respect and opportunities to connect, around commonalities and across all kinds of differences.

I was reminded once again of how useful it is to continue to put myself in situations that stir up awareness of my own race and class privilege, let me see the patterns that are so often invisible, and to move through discomfort to new learnings and more freedom. For anyone on this journey, I highly recommend the experience.

WPC 15 is scheduled for spring 2014 Madison, Wisconsin. Maybe I'll see you there.


Carol Baldwin said...

"The patterns that are invisible." Very interesting observation. Are you aware of the artwork of John Jones? He did a series of paintings called "The Color of Money" that are paintings of Confederate Money. Not exactly your topic, but I thought you might find it interesting:

Anne Sibley O'Brien said...

Thanks so much, Carol. This is absolutely related to the topic!

I was not familiar with this artist, and have just learned from the link you shared that "Jones’ goal is to paint the African American experience starting with the slave trade in Africa, through the Middle Passage and pre-civil war era, and contrast it with African Americans today."

I had no idea that Confederate bills included portrayals of enslaved workers. It's fascinating to see what Jones is doing with those images.