The Center for Diversity and Inclusion hosted an event titled “But I’m Not a Racist,” on Feb. 21 in Anderson 2U that allowed both students and faculty to address obstacles that white individuals face when engaging in anti-racism. About 50 participants showed up to the event.
The event was run by Matt Bruno, the assistant director of education and training for CDI and Sean Furmage, a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology. The two kicked off the discussion by encouraging students to ask questions and talk about situations that make them uncomfortable.
Bruno and Furmage then asked the participants to get into groups of eight to 10 people with the same skin color. Bruno called this process “caucusing”, and explained that its purpose was to create a “brave space” to ask difficult questions and avoid putting a burden on people of color.
Resa Troast, a white local preschool teacher who came to the event with a member of the library staff, shared her thoughts shortly after caucusing.
“I feel awkward, but I also feel that it’s necessary and I want to help,” she told her group.
Once in their caucuses, participants engaged in different kinds of conversations on race. First, the groups discussed their thoughts on “color-blindness” or the refusal to see color in terms of culture and identity. Next, groups wrote down their obstacles and fears concerning racism on a small piece of paper and shared them with each other.
Troast shared her fear of exclusion and her experience as a white woman growing up in a mostly black community.
“There were areas where I didn’t feel safe or accepted,” Troast said.
After each of the groups shared their common obstacles when addressing “racist” commentary like feelings of denial, defensiveness and guilt, Bruno and Furmage gave all the participants helpful advice in order to move forward, such as asking questions on how to word commentary in a better way and owning up to mistakes in order to make all people of all backgrounds feel welcome in their environments.
“We all have a role in eradicating racism,” Bruno said. “You can’t hide from it anymore. You have to do something about it.”
“But I’m Not a Racist” is the second in the series of events that the Center for Diversity and Inclusion has hosted for combating racism and teaching more about social justice. Last semester, CDI hosted a similar information session on “white work”, or how white people can use their privilege in order to combat racism.
CDI is also hosting a weekend retreat from March 3 to March 5. The retreat will focus on social justice and teaching students how to interact with others to create positive change on campus and all over the world.
“We all still have a lot of learning to do,” Furmage said.