Unpacking the existence of an entire race seems a radically robust job. But Tufts University is evidently willing to do the work.
According to an article by student paper The Tufts Daily, the school’s Diversity and Inclusion Education department hosts an ongoing “Unpacking Whiteness” discussion.
It all began eight years ago:
When white police officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teen, in 2014, Sarah Iacobucci, director of undergraduate laboratories at Tufts, and her friends from church wanted to do something.
Iacobucci, who identifies as white, attends a Unitarian Universalist church, where social justice is a core part of religious programming. After attending a vigil in Brown’s memory, Iacobucci and friends spent months educating themselves on racial justice. In 2015, they brought in an outside facilitator who led six-week classes for congregants who largely identified as white.
The Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice took the reigns in 2018, and nonwhites are now simultaneously served with a safe space:
Over 500 faculty and staff members have participated in the program since then, while others who identify as non-white have participated in the Radical Healing series offered in parallel as a safe space for those who have traditionally been marginalized.
Another bunch is intended to bridge the gap:
A third dialogue group, Intercultural Learning Communities, brings these community members together to “promote learning across differences,” Director of DEI Programming Lisa Fenn wrote in an email to the Daily.
That’s a tall order. Current “Unpacking Whiteness” facilitator Colin Gerrity warns of a whiteness so heavy it’s harmful:
“People who are non-white participating in these sessions were exposed to things that were just directly harmful that people were sharing. We can’t keep them safe in these sessions. We have to have an alternative space.”
More on the program:
“Unpacking Whiteness” now meets weekly for a total of eight hour-and-a-half-long sessions on understanding racial identity. Topics range from “listening” the first week to “white supremacy,” “the game is rigged” and ultimately “taking action for racial justice.” Participants typically have two hours of required readings and video preparation for each session. Three groups of “Unpacking Whiteness” are running this semester, as is the radical healing dialogue group.
Nationally, there’s plenty where that came from. Whiteness is enjoying a well-attended audit:
Back to pale unpacking at Tufts, expansion is essential:
Iacobucci added that “Unpacking Whiteness” sessions have been run at Tufts Medical School and at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts.
Iacobucci said she has considered offering “Unpacking Whiteness” to undergraduate students through the Experimental College and would love to see the curriculum offered there in the future.
“I hope that something does happen for undergraduates because I think they would love it,” Iacobucci said. “Young people are already way ahead of us.”
Indeed they are. And in some ways, Tufts is already ahead of other schools:
University Launches Graduate Program to Fight the 'Rampant' White Supremacy of Museums https://t.co/hNXSM0lPTm
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