By: Micah Price ~Staff Writer~
What is white privilege? Where does it come from? Why is it necessary to talk about? These questions were explored by Xavier students and faculty on Jan. 31 during the Center for Diversity and Inclusion’s I.D. Series event, “Becoming White: A Critically Important Conversation.”
The event’s panel consisted of Dr. Molly Keehn and Dr. Ben Neale. They are professionals in the fields of social justice education and statistical genetics, respectively, who explored their identities as white people and what the phrase “white privilege” means in the context of today’s society.
Neale spoke about growing up, being interested in issues of oppression and finding himself feeling at home with a group of multicultural friends. In an attempt to embrace this, he did not consider the possible ramifications of embracing a culture that was not his own.
“Because a large chunk of (culture) is learned, really any human being can access it, but the key is to do it in an authentic way,” Taj Smith, Director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, said. “You have to show that you know about the culture, that you have awareness about it, and that it’s not just something as pop, or trend…it’s a balance between what is your identity and you also look to embrace something else.”
One concern the event addressed was how to reconcile the concept of white privilege in society while also embracing multiculturalism. A few students in attendance raised concerns that the event, which was one of several leading up to the #BlackLivesMatter event on Feb. 1, lacked a diverse audience. Namely, white students were reported to be the least in attendance.
Sophomore Michael McGrath, whose majors are theology and political science, says that the greater percentage of students in attendance represented minorities on campus. The lack of white students in attendance for an event meant to tackle white privilege is a pressing concern according to McGrath, a white male.
“Xavier needs to discover its whiteness and deconstruct its white privilege,” McGrath said.
More events on racial discourse are anticipated to occur throughout Black History Month. Students wishing to seek out these events or to have conversations concerning similar topics should visit the Center for Diversity and Inclusion in GSC 280.