By Stephani Maari Booker
The 12th Annual White Privilege Conference (WPC) will be held April 13-16 in Bloomington. MN. According to the conference website, “WPC is a conference built on the premise that the U.S. was started by White people, for White people [WPC] is…designed to examine issues of privilege beyond skin color.
“WPC is open to everyone and invites diverse perspectives to provide a comprehensive look at issues of privilege including: race, gender, sexuality, class, disability, etc. — the ways we all experience some form of privilege, and how we’re all affected by that privilege.”
Conference organizer Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr. was at the Sheraton Bloomington on April 26 for a WPC planning meeting; after the meeting, Moore (EM) sat down with the MSR for an interview:
MSR: During the planning meeting we sat in on, you said, “The subject of White supremacy is not the same as racism.” Explain that for us, since people who are new to the subject of White supremacy/privilege might confuse it with racism.
EM: White supremacy is a philosophical belief that Whiteness is dominance. So everything you do, everything you design, everything you create is for White and Whiteness. So what extends from that is the system of racism; so that if you’re not a part of Whiteness, the system that Whiteness designs discriminates against you, separates you, segregates you, holds you at bay.
So if I’m White and I have power, I can do things against those who are not a part of that. I think also this is a system related to gender bias. So if you’re a dude, this system is designed by dudes, for dudes. So if you’re a dude and you have power, you can then use that power to be sexist in your decisions; therefore, segregating, separating, discriminating against women, which is where the system of sexism comes from.
MSR: What do you want people of color to learn from this conference?
EM: That White supremacy, White privilege, racism and other forms of oppression are designed for your destruction — designed to kill you. So what I want this conference to help people of color to understand is how that system works. How it can create little bitty things that add up, that cause hypertension…that cause you to maybe eat unhealthy or not exercise.
It’s designed for people of color to understand the philosophical design [and] belief in White supremacy. This conference is an opportunity for people of color to learn about that system and to be better prepared to find success — but most importantly, to live healthy.
MSR: At this conference, you’re working with and also trying to teach European Americans as well. One of the things we read in the information materials is, “This is not a conference that is about beating up on White people.” Explain that statement.
EM: I think it’s sometimes real tempting when you’re doing this work to really get frustrated and angry, and the work doesn’t become for progress; it actually becomes for relief, and what you do for relief is attack, degrade and beat up on White folks. I want to be real careful and clear [that] this is not a conference designed for that kind of space.
You can hopefully understand the system, understand how to take care of yourself, like I said, from a health perspective, but also learn how to build relationships and work strategically with White people. Because White people can do things differently in this system and be effective in different ways than people of color.
MSR: You’re not just addressing White privilege, but other forms of privilege. People may not understand, especially people of color, the different forms of privilege we may all have, such as heterosexual privilege or able-bodied privilege. Can you talk about that element of the conference?
EM: The conference is designed on a foundation of Whiteness, but it’s also designed to examine privilege comprehensively. And I feel as a person of color, as a man of color, there are definitely some things that I face as a challenge in reference to skin[color-based] lack of privilege. But there’s some real benefits that I receive because I’m a male, because I’m educated, because I’m somewhat young.
All of us have work to do; this is not just work, as we move forward in the 21st century, for one group of people (meaning White people). I think that we all have work to do in very different ways in very different areas, and that’s really one of the critical pieces that we’re trying to address as part of this conference.
MSR: Give me a general bio of yourself and how you started doing this work.
EM: I grew up in Florida, kind of a segregated background, all-Black neighborhood, and I did most — I should say all — my education in Iowa. So I went from Florida — Black neighborhood — to Iowa. Now, that was a shock, let me tell you!
So that really began my journey of this work, because I had a whole lot of stuff built up in me towards White people, and Iowa gave me a real chance to start to battle that and challenge that.
…It was at the end of my master’s [degree] program that I decided that this diversity work was the work that I feel I am being called to do.
After my master’s degree, I went to the University of Iowa to get my Ph.D…and [then] I got hired at a small college in Iowa where I did my undergrad[uate work] called Cornell College of Mt. Vernon. Cornell hired me to be their director of diversity, and in the midst of my Ph.D.
program I was reading about this White supremacy, this White privilege stuff, and I thought, “Man, it would be really nice to create a space where we could keep this conversation going.”
And that’s the start of the WPC. We started with about 150, 175 folks that came from outside of the college, and last year at the conference we had over 1,700. And this year we’re expecting close to 2,000.
Even though I’ve been doing this work for all these years, I don’t talk as if I know all the answers, as if “Dr. Diversity” has all the magic, and if you just listen to me you’ll be transformed — because I have a whole lot of work to do myself.
The MSR will be reporting on the White Privilege Conference in an upcoming issue. For more information about WPC, go to the Spot listings on page 5.
Stephani Booker welcomes reader responses to [email protected]