Sometimes, things are magical. And in Tennessee, a school’s come upon a recipe for just such a thing.
The University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s College of Social Work is offering “antiracism” workshops this month, and officials have made clear just how some may find an Abracadabra kind of wondrous state: the absence of white people.
The college is employing a 1940s-inspired separation: Participants will be split according to white and nonwhite.
Caucasians are assigned to the “White Accountability Group.”
Here’s how it’s billed on the web:
We’re excited to welcome you to the College of Social Work and invite you participate in our work towards inclusive excellence. To do that work, we also must address those internal barriers that inhibit us from completely engaging and move forward to reimagining our personal role in the effort to build a more inclusive/equitable workplace. … White Accountability Group (WAG) is an important mechanism for people who identify as White and/or have white skin privilege to do their own work.
White attendees must make themselves different:
WAGs provides individuals with an environment and intention to authentically and critically engage in whiteness, white privilege, and hold each other accountable for change.
The training will enlighten light-colored learners on “how to recognize whiteness and white privilege, identify and interrupt internalized dominance, and collectively develop strategies for liberation and change.”
On the other side of the segregating aisle are “BIMPoC (Black, Indigenous, Multiracial People of Color) Affinity Groups.”
Per the correspondent page, UTK’s leading “individual and interpersonal work that will strengthen our efforts toward anti-racism and social justice…”
While the white group will shoulder responsibility for being oppressive, BIMPoC folks will gather for support from those with any skin that isn’t pale:
The Black, Indigenous, Multiracial People of Color (BIMPoC) Affinity is a group of people with common interests, background, and experience that come together to support each other. … The BIMPoC group will provide a safe and supportive place to naming the problem and defining or reframing the problem.
Affinity groups for black, indigenous, people of color can be magical places in a predominantly white institution.
Race-based “antiracism” groups are nothing new — Minnesota’s Carleton College has put them to use.
In May, I covered a story about Brandeis University Professor Kate Slater. The “racial justice scholar and educator,” as stated by her site, “leads facilitations, trainings, and affinity groups with K-12 institutions and universities.”
Kate’s taken an oddly ironic position:
“[I] am a white woman. … I don’t believe that it’s possible for a white person to be an expert in race and racism. I don’t think we can be an expert in something that we enact versus something that we experience. … White people need to sit back and shut up right now.”
Where division via oppression and victimization’s concerned, academia’s direction seems clear:
State University Seeks Professor of 'Structural Racism, Oppression, and Black Political Experiences'https://t.co/N2S9UE8VRD
— Alex Parker (@alexparker1984) September 5, 2021
University Decides to 'Review' Teaching White Christians They're Oppressors and Black Pansexuals They're 'Targets' https://t.co/NHDhRPVeBv
— RedState (@RedState) August 24, 2021
University's Required Training Labels Straight White Males 'Oppressors' — in the Name of Being 'Inclusive'
— RedState (@RedState) August 21, 2021
Report: Professor Tells White Student if He's Breathing, He 'May Have Oppressed Somebody' Today https://t.co/m5Vu3qVw8u
— RedState (@RedState) July 24, 2021
As for magic, in recent decades, society didn’t deem the presence or absence of pigment nearly so spellbinding.
In fact, quite the opposite was true: Our old version of being magical…was being unified.
Currently, plenty of Powers That Be don’t appear much interested in such wizardry.
And as we move away from unity — national, political, and racial — I can’t help but wonder if there’s something far from magical in store.
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