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UnderSTAND

Equity and Inclusion is an ongoing pursuit, and so should education about the issues. This section will focus on specific topics from a national and local level, provide insight from reputable news and education institutions as well as voices from our students and faculty.

Focus On: White Supremacy and Racism

The “S” word makes people uncomfortable and sometimes angry. Supremacy. It brings up images of hooded figures and burning crosses and terror in the night time. “We are good people,” we say when we hear that word. “We don’t do that!” Racism is another word that makes people uncomfortable and sometimes angry. We think of racists as those who fling racial epithets and actively discriminate against any person who isn’t white. We don’t like to be associated with that word, either.

But what if we changed the way we think about these words? Not as angry accusations, but rather observations about the way our institutions and systems work and are influenced by our culture. Supremacy isn’t necessarily a personal, conscious choice. Racism isn’t always a decision we make.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we, as white people, are off the hook. Often the way we behave is influenced by our culture and the systems we live in. White people just don’t have to pay attention to the ways we interact or think about race or racism; an awful lot of white people don’t even think they have a race. But we benefit from these systems and so we are complicit. We have a responsibility to dismantle what gives privilege to some and denies it to many. If we don’t examine the impact our privilege has on others, we won’t be able to recognize the negative impact such privilege has on us.

At the Common Hour on Aug. 23, we met to respond to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Joey Oteng asked a question that did not get answered: “How do we hold white people responsible?” Maybe it didn’t get answered because it’s a really big question and hard to answer succinctly. But maybe it didn’t get answered because it requires us, as white folks, to recognize that we are, ultimately, responsible for white supremacy and racism in our communities. Ouch.

It is clear, by now, that racism has been, and continues to be a problem of enormous proportions and complexity in America. Its pervasive influence has been felt for centuries, and it is deeply entrenched in our society. Because privilege is the stuff we don’t have to think about, racism has been largely unexamined by white people. Redlining isn’t taught in high school, slaves are described as “workers,”  the Trail of Tears is removed from the pioneer narrative and there isn’t much attention given to the internment of Japanese Americans or to the illegal deportation of Mexican Americans. And on, and on, and on.

If we don’t examine our heritage and history, we can’t understand how it shapes our current landscape. If we don’t recognize our privilege, we can’t work for justice to insure that everyone shares that privilege. If we don’t understand our current institutions and systems, we can’t change them. 

So join me, at 12 p.m. every Monday throughout this semester in the Chapel to talk about race, to think about history and implicit bias and microagressions. Recognize that, just because we don’t have these experiences as white people, doesn’t mean they don’t have a huge, painful impact on the people of color in our communities.

Judy Guion-Utsler
Otterbein University Chaplain

Resources

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  • Silence Breakers for Whites in Cross-racial Discussions
    Anika Nailah and Robin DiAngelo, 2013
    • The Silence Breakers are suggested openings intended to address two common challenges for whites in cross-racial discussions: 1) they speak to the fear of losing face, making a mistake, or not being able to manage impressions that often prevent Whites from authentic engagement; and 2) they engender a stance of curiosity and humility that counters the certitude many Whites have regarding their racial perspectives. In doing so, they tend to open, rather than close, discussion and connection.

Articles

Untitled Document
  • The Planted Row: They fought for the wrong cause
    The Form Forum, Aug. 16, 2017
    In his weekly column, native Mississippian and descendant of Confederate soldiers, Farm Forum Editor Stan Wise discusses why his ancestors fought for the wrong-side of history and why their legacy should be scrutinized in today's societal contexts.
  • White Fragility
    International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, Vol 3 (3), 2011
    White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium. This paper explicates the dynamics of White Fragility.

Voices

Equity & Inclusion

  • Robert Gatti

    Vice President for Student Affairs
    Diversity & Inclusion Committee Chair
    p/ 614.823.1250
    e/ rgatti@otterbein.ed
  • James Prysock

    Director, Office of Social Justice & Activism
    Action and Implementation
    p/ 614.823.1312
    e/ jprysock@otterbein.edu
  • Kathryn Plank

    Director, Center for Teaching and Learning
    Campus Climate
    p/ 614.823.1805
    e/ sfitzgerald@otterbein.edu
  • Scott Fitzgerald

    Director, Human Resources
    Communication and Conversation
    p/ 614.823.1034
    e/ kplank@otterbein.edu