Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Trials of Derryl Hunt

I would like to thank Luke from our affinity group who gave me the name of a documentary called The Trials of Derryl Hunt. It tells the story of an 19 year old African-American man, Derryl Hunt, who was wrongfully charged in the rape and murder of a white reporter in North Carolina. He was sentenced by an all white jury based only upon testimony from a former Ku-Klux-Klan member and subsequently served nearly 20 years in prison. In 1994 DNA evidence proved his innocence and he subsequently fought in court until 2004 when he was fully exonerated.

Derryl Hunt's case serves as a clear demonstration of institutional racism as a clearly prejudice legal system unjustly imprisoned an innocent man. After his exoneration, Hunt became involved in The Innocence Project which works to exonerate wrongfully imprisoned people using DNA evidence. The mission of the project is to fix the criminal justice system which they and many others see as a flawed system.

This is a great resource to show at your school to help people understand how institutional racism manifests itself in society today. I have not had a chance to see the film myself but everything I have read makes it sound worth a viewing.

Check out these links to the film's site and The Innocence Project

Monday, December 3, 2007

Post Conference Thoughts

Hello SDLCers!

Returning last night exhausted physically and emotionally (yet full of inspiration) from the two and a half day marathon we all ran together, I found myself frustrated. How in the world was I going to be able to reproduce yet another amazing SDLC experience to my colleagues, friends, administrators and, most importantly, students. How do you repeat the activities, friendships, conversations, insights and transformations you participate in throughout an event like SDLC for those who have no context and no understanding of your experience. Unfortunately I realized, you don't.

Do not get me wrong, it is important to share your experiences and talk with others about the complex issues you wrestled with over the duration of the conference. If we did not attempt to convey our SDLC knowledge and experiences we would betray all of those activities, friendships, conversations, insights and transformations that make the task of relaying them seem so daunting. What we cannot do is replicate the conference in our own schools. Each of our schools has its own culture, distinctly different from that of the SDLC culture, which means that duplicating the conference is not within our grasp. However it is no coincidence that in addition to being a "Diversity" Conference SDLC is also a "Leadership" conference. Whether you realize it or not you have a set of knowledge and tools that can be used to do something within your community.

As you return to your schools, take your leadership knowhow, your toolbox of exercises and experiences and construct a program, speech, conversation, assembly or article that will effect your community. Today in all of my classes I described the conference and had them identify for me the "Core Cultural Identifiers." Following this exercise I asked them the question, "Why is a white, European American, upper-middle class, male, heterosexual, able bodied, Christian, Professional aged person leading this conference?" After some fumbling around with that question I guided them to the concept of "Allyship," specifically mentioning to them the concept of a white allyship. This was not a revolutionary activity or a life altering experience for any of my students but it represents what they are ready to hear, listen to and, for the most part, accept.

As part of our attempt to support each other, tell us about your experiences your first day back in school and share with us your successes and failures as allies in your schools.

Sincerely Yours,

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Kip Fulbeck - The Hapa Project

I thought Kip's presentation yesterday was great, and I heard a lot of comments about it, both in the affinity group and in my family group.

This resource isn't specifically for white allies, but it might be interesting to use some of his work in our schools. In particular, he adds a level of complexity to a racial conversation that often breaks people down into a false binary of black or white, as though those were the only two choices.

Kip's work is available at www.thehapaproject.com or www.myspace.com/thehapaproject.

You can also see some of his movies on-line for free, including "Lilo + Me" and "Sex, Love, and Kung Fu," here. His book will cost you $13.57 at Amazon.com, since the SDLC bookstore sold out.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Is Your School Segregated At Lunch?

In our affinity group, some students shared how their schools often seem segregated in the cafeteria. It's nothing official, but informally, students seem to separate themselves by race. When I asked my group to raise their hands, about half of the group saw this at their school.

I brought up an event called Mix It Up!, which encourages people to sit somewhere different in the cafeteria. Check out the website for resources on how to set it up, including posters and publicity materials.

Have you done something at your school around this issue? Do you have any ideas for what else might work? Post your comments here.

What does it mean to be a white ally at YOUR school?

After our big meeting on Friday, we broke into smaller groups to look at definitions of white allyship and talk about what it might look like, at your school, to be a white ally.

What great ideas came out of that discussion? What concrete actions could you take to be a white ally in your school?

This is an open thread - post your ideas here.

Understanding Race

In our big group Friday at SDLC, a young woman stood up and mentioned how she drove halfway across the country to see a museum exhibition called "Understanding Race."

It's a great resource and really worth looking at.

The website has a bunch of discussion questions and on-line activities that would be good to use in a class or diversity club. Particularly important, I think, is how well it debunks the idea that race is something biological. Once we understand how biologically alike all humans are, I think it becomes easier to work against racism.

The website is here: www.understandingrace.org

Monday, October 29, 2007

On-Line Quiz: Who Is White?

In our society, we often think that deciding who is white is an easy thing. Our racial categories have been naturalized, and so we've been trained to stop noticing how artificial they are.

However, there's no neat line that separates "white" from any other category. This is one of the reasons why we'll often talk about whiteness as a social construction. It's real only because of historical processes, not because of any objective reality.

Take this quiz to see how you'd define people from a given nation: http://www.understandingrace.org/lived/who_is/index.html

This quiz sees whether you can really always "see" race:

The idea here is not to categorize people, but rather to explore how the categories our societies have created are ambiguous and shift over time, or even from person to person.