Students discuss white privilege, freedom of speech talk to come

Amantha Hood, For the Review

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On Tuesday, May 9, four students created a student conversation about white privilege. At the discussion, there were three ground rules. The first rule said that racism does exist and debates about that should take place in a different setting. The second rule was to accept that mistakes will happen, and being called out is important to learning. The third rule was that white comfort was not the priority in this discussion, rather the space was created to honor experiences and voices of non-white students.

This event was created by Piper Townsend, Sarah Schmidt, Birch Clark and Alaire Hughey. They said this gathering was important to work against white systems and oppressions, which are embedded in our society. The leaders said the goal of the discussion is to “think about ways white supremacy shows up, and how it impacts our own behavior.” One student asked the leaders to define white privilege. Multiple students offered to describe and define white privilege. “It’s not so much how you perceive yourself but how people perceive you,” a student said. Students suggested white privilege has a spectrum; the closer you get to white the more privileges one will have in life.

There were four videos shown, titled “A conversation with white people on race – Blair Foster and Michele Stephenson,” “White privilege in five minutes,” “How to deal with police, black parents explain,” and “5 tips for being ally.”  After each video the group of about 20 students dispersed into about groups of five. After the four small discussions, the groups regathered and talked about what they observed. Students suggested that attempting to be color blind really enhances racism, because we are not the same. We do not live in a world of equality and equity; therefore, be not racism we are perpetuating it.

Student teachers in the education department said race and accepting differences is one of the hardest issues to cover in a classroom of young people. A student said, “I don’t know how to approach that subject in a place where they’ll (six- and seven-year-olds) understand it.” After watching the video about how black parents typically educate their black children about cops differently than whites, one student said she sort of hopes to marry a white person so she will not have to explain these things to her children. This young lady meant that by marrying a white man, her kids might turn out a lighter complexion and pass on the white spectrum.

The leaders hope to create a club next year where students can address these issues in smaller spaces. Today, there will be a college wide discussion of “Freedom of Speech: A Privilege with Rule.” At this student event, there will be faculty and student run discussions on various topics pertaining to the events theme. The event will be live streamed to the Portland Campus, and those who would like to join remotely. The event is from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. on Monday, May 15, in the Ted Wilson Gymnasium. Please join the Linfield community in talking about freedom of speech here on campus. “While it is very important for us to discuss the importance of speech and expression at our college, we will also want to talk about how to address and study these issues in the future months and years,” President Thomas Hellie said in an email to the Linfield community. “Please note: this event is intended only for members of the Linfield College community (students, faculty and staff).”

[Students asked that names were not used during the discussion, so outside of the student leaders- there will not be any use of names for confidentiality reasons.]

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One Response to “Students discuss white privilege, freedom of speech talk to come”

  1. Mark Johnson on May 15th, 2017 7:19 pm

    Good Lord what has Linfield become 🙁

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Students discuss white privilege, freedom of speech talk to come