MADISON, Wis. – A White Privilege workshop offered by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Multicultural Student Center is showing students how to use their race to promote social justice.
“The goal of this workshop was to engage white-identified people in a conversation about what is their experience in the world; what does this experience look like in relation to others around them and what can we all start doing to create a more equitable campus experience and community around this,” the student center’s “Social Justice Educator” Khaled Ismail told The Daily Cardinal.
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The White Privilege 101 lesson Monday tasked students with discussing their “privilege” with classmates they’ve never met, then place themselves on a privilege spectrum based on their supposed advantages.
“Ismael also educated attendees about the differences between prejudice, discrimination and oppression. He discussed using allyship to eradicate these concepts, which involves being aware of one’s privilege and of other people that are coming from different starting points,” according to the news site.
Ismail’s bio on the UW website states he’s “passionate about working with students to identify community action and organizing strategies, and developing a sense of personal responsibility to combat bias within our communities.”
Khaled comes from Northwestern University, where he worked in the school’s “Offices of Social Justice Education and Multicultural Student Affairs” and “focused on the impact of participation in activist behaviors on leadership development outcomes for student activists of color,” his bio reads.
The White Privilege 101 workshop is part of a series of five workshops hosted by UW-Madison’s Multicultural Student Center this semester devoted to white privilege and racism. The MSC also offers a “Social Justice Speaker Series” as well as a “Social Justice Leadership Retreat” that “helps educated (sic) students about the concepts of social justice and racial justice by exploring their own stories and the stores of others, and how those intersect with issues of oppression and privilege,” according to the Facebook event description.
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“We wanted to talk race specifically and center the conversation around race right now,” Ismail told The Daily Cardinal. “We don’t all exist in siloed identities. It’s important to bring in those examples, just from an educational standpoint.”
The White Privilege 101 workshop follows complaints from lawmakers and others about a UW-Madison course offered this semester titled “The Problem of Whiteness,” which aims to show students “how whiteness is socially constructed and experienced in order to help dismantle white supremacy,” according to the course description.
“Our class will break away from the standard US-centric frame, and consider how whiteness is constructed globally, with particular attention to paradigmatic cases like South Africa. Whereas disciplines such as Latino/a, African, and Asian American studies focus on race as experienced by non-whites, whiteness studies considers how race is experienced by white people,” the description reads.
“It explores how they consciously and unconsciously perpetuate institutional racism and how this not only devastates communities of color but also perpetuates the oppression of most white folks along the lines of class and gender. In this class, we will ask what an ethical white identity entails, what it means to be #woke, and consider the journal Race Traitor’s motto, ‘treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.’”
Wisconsin lawmakers in December spoke out against the course and its instructor, Damon Sajnani, who used headlines from news sites about the blowback to decorate the cover of the course syllabus.
“If you support higher tuition or increasing (General Purpose Revenue) to the UW System, then you also need to explain to the hardworking families of this state why their money is being wasted to advance the politically correct agenda of liberal administrators and staff,” state Sen. Steve Nash wotrte in an email to colleagues, according to WPR.
“I am extremely concerned that UW-Madison finds it appropriate to teach a course called, ‘The Problem of Whiteness,’ with the premise that white people are racist,” state Rep. Dave Murphy wrote in a prepared statement. “Even more troubling, the course is taught by a self-described ‘international radical’ professor whose views are a slap in the face to the taxpayers who are expected to pay for this garbage.”
The statement also included screenshots from Sajnani’s Twitter account that “openly (condone) violence against law enforcement and (compare) white voters to the KKK.”
UW-Madison leaders, of course, defended the “The Problem of Whiteness” and Sajnani.
“We believe this course, which is one of thousands offered at our university, will benefit students who are interested in developing a deeper understanding of race issues,” a UW-Madison statement read. “The course is a challenge and response to racism of all kinds.”
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