Seattle high school students have at public expense been sent to the annual White Privilege Conference, the stated aim of which is to provide “a yearly opportunity to examine and explore difficult issues related to white privilege, white supremacy and oppression.” Topics headlined for ‘exploration’ include “white man’s pornography”, “multiple systems of oppression” and “transforming whiteness in the classroom.” Given such tendentious subject matter, readers may be forgiven for questioning the extent to which realistic discussion will actually be encouraged, or indeed permitted, and for questioning whether the White Privilege Conference does in fact provide “a challenging, empowering and educational experience.”
Visitors are, however, assured that the WPC is “not about beating up on white folks,” but is instead about “working to dismantle systems of power, prejudice, privilege and oppression.” Whether those two statements prove compatible in practice is, alas, not entirely clear. Dr Peggy McIntosh, a “highly sought-after speaker” on multicultural teaching methods, describes white privilege as “an invisible package of unearned assets… like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, code books, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks.” If that explanation isn’t sufficiently clear or convincing, Dr McIntosh also provides a White Privilege Checklist, which defines white privilege as the ability to “be in the company of people of my race most of the time” and to “avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.” The ability to go shopping without being followed or harassed is, Dr McIntosh asserts, another indicator of heinous racial advantage, as is the ability to find publishers for articles on the “invisible, weightless” phenomenon upon which she happens to opine.
La Shawn Barber notes that racially-fixated ideology isn’t exactly unknown in Seattle’s educational system. Dr Caprice Hollins, the Director of Equity, Race & Learning Support for Seattle’s public schools, has previously criticised individualism, long-term planning (or “future time orientation”) and the speaking of grammatical English as “white values.” The expectation among teachers that all students should be responsible individuals and meet certain linguistic and organisational standards is, according to Dr Hollins, a form of “cultural racism.”
Behold your tax dollars at work, shaping young minds for a brighter tomorrow.