|NUMBER 304||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||MAY 2011|
|'White Privilege' Conference Spared Budget Axe|
Minnesota's Lakeview school district needs to get its priorities straight. Back in February, the school board cut the budget by $7 million. As a result, 94 teachers will be laid off, an elementary school will close, and art programs will lose funding. What was spared? Not just reading, writing, and arithmetic. The school sent a delegation of teachers to the 12th annual White Privilege Conference in Minneapolis this April, costing taxpayers a $160 registration fee per teacher attending, plus $120 per day for substitute teachers.
According to its website, the White Privilege Conference is "built on the premise that the U.S. was started by white people, for white people." One example of white privilege, according to the website, is "being able to assume that most of the people you or your children study in history classes and textbooks will be of the same race, gender, or sexual orientation as you are." In the 2010 conference journal, Understanding and Dismantling Privilege, keynote speaker Paul Kivel said, "Our school system has been set up, among other reasons, to perpetuate white supremacy and white privilege. . . . Students of color and low-income students in general do not drop out — they are pushed out." He goes on to say that "Christianity has also played a key role in developing and justifying systems of oppression such as racism, sexism, colonialism, and genocide."
Speech titles for the 2011 conference included "Mi America: Thievery, White Supremacy and the American Continent" by Jorge Zeballos, "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" by Michelle Alexander, and "White Supremacy, the Colonial Commodification of the Land, and the Corporate Structure" by Steve Martinot. In a blog post, a conference alumnus quoted from Martinot's speech that "Slavery, not wage labor, is the basis of capitalism." Another speaker, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, was quoted in the same blog as saying, "The colonists who came to this country might as well have been wearing Nazi uniforms."
This education-focused conference was attended by hundreds of teachers, and was sponsored by several colleges including the University of Colorado, the University of Minnesota, Hamline University, and Augsburg College. College and high school students were also invited, and could earn one to four hours of academic credit for attending the conference. But is this really education? Niger Innis of the Congress of Racial Equality said on the Sean Hannity Show that "it's absurd, it's disgusting, it's outrageous and it's a mis-education of our children." (Star Tribune, 4-9-11; changefromwithin.org, 4-20-11; foxnews.com, 4-12-11)