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'Witnessing Whiteness': Missouri college may introduce whites-only racism seminar


The whites-only program would address racism

Photo illustration/David McNew/Getty Images

A Missouri university may consider a whites-only seminar to encourage white students to talk about racism and privilege, Campus Reform reported.

What is it about?

The program at Webster University in St. Louis would be based on the book "Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk About Race and How to Do It."

A former multicultural studies professor at the school and its chief diversity officer have both been involved in the Witnessing Whiteness program.

"White people would not be as forthcoming if they were in a mixed group," Mary Ferguson, who was multicultural studies adjunct professor at Webster from 1997 to 2009, said in a report by Webster University's student newspaper, The Journal. "They would not do as deep a learning because they would be afraid of being called racist and offending someone."

Vincent Flewellen, the chief diversity officer at Webster University, previously organized a Witnessing Whiteness program at Washington University where he served as Director of Equity and Inclusion. He told The Journal that if implemented, the program would probably not be held before August.

During an NBC news program in December 2018, Flewellen said he wants white people to stop calling the police on black people "just because they're gathering in a park." He also said he hopes white people will be able to "find their voice and are able to speak to, call out and stand up against racism," after they attend the workshop.

Ferguson, who is currently a racial justice director with the YWCA said on the NBC program that there are currently 16 "Witnessing Whiteness" groups that meet regularly. About one dozen more could be formed by next year, she said.

What's included?

The Mero St. Louis YWCA's website states that the curriculum for the program includes:

  • "History and construction of white racial identity.
  • Community building within white spaces.
  • White culture and values and how US national culture reflects and largely rests of white culture, practices and values.
  • Manifestations of white supremacy and privilege.
  • Cross-racial communication, conflict, and relationship building.
  • Activation of white solidarity and accountability."

According to a document on the YWCA website, "People of color shouldn't always have to be the ones to educate white people about racism and oppression. We are taking responsibility for learning about racism, our own white privilege, and how to challenge it as white people."

It also states the program provides "a space for white people to figure out what it means to be an anti-racist white person and challenge racism in all areas of our lives."

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