Three day event organised by the University of Vermont for undergraduates who “self-identify as white” to discuss issues of race and “white privilege”
Last weekend, the University of Vermont in the US held a three-day retreat exclusively for white students to discuss “white privilege” with the aim that they “engage in building a stronger and inclusive campus community.”
The perhaps misleadingly named “white retreat” was organised by the African, Latino, Asian, and Native American Student Centre (ALANA) within the university, a group that aims to promote the rights and development of students from these racial backgrounds.
The event, which was only open to those who “self-identify as white,” was designed to make students aware of and recognise the privileges largely experienced through being white.
Organisers ALANA reportedly created the event to better involve the white demographic in their efforts to promote equality and “interrupt racism” across university.
Over the free three-day course, University of Vermont undergraduates were given “the opportunity to conceptualize and articulate whiteness,” according to the university’s website.
The retreat was met with positive feedback from students, one saying it “provided a safe space to learn about yourself and others, and how we experience and understand privilege and systems of oppression.”
Conservative US media corporation Fox News viewed the event slightly differently, criticising it as essentially being a ‘Blame the White Guy 2015’ gathering that unfairly shamed white students with guilt.
Racial tensions have recently escalated in the US, with growing scrutiny on police conduct and brutality. In recent months several high profile cases of unarmed black men and youths being killed by white policemen have caused national outrage.
On Tuesday the 24th of November campaigners took the streets in Chicago following the release of a video showing a law enforcement officer shooting a black teenager 16 times. Also on Tuesday a Black Lives Matter march, held in protest at the killing of an unarmed black man last year, was shot at by neo-Nazi members in Minneapolis, injuring five demonstrators.
This comes alongside Presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s Republican candidacy campaign that has been riddled with controversial racial comments and slurs. The business tycoon-turned-politician has sparked outcry after multiple false statistics and politically incorrect blunders, recently suggesting that a black man who was beaten at a Trump rally “maybe… should have been roughed up.”
The wider national context may point towards the increasing number of racial incidents enveloping American university campuses, and the University of Vermont will argue that despite dividing opinion, the “white retreat” event is a proactive measure to tackle these racial issues tainting universities across America.