By SIERRA TAKUSHI
On Wednesday, Dec. 6, members of the Colorado College community convened in the Slocum Commons for the third and final installment of “An Education Series on White Supremacy.” When CC students and faculty members were asked to reflect on their perceptions of white supremacy, there was a suspended silence.
Pearl Leonard-Rock, Associate Director of the Butler Center, reiterated the question: “How do you define white supremacy?” After a few moments of contemplative glances around the room, students began offering self-constructed meanings to the term. Gradually, the silence transitioned into discussion.
The three-part series was designed by the Butler Center, which partnered with the Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies Department. These events were dedicated to informing and facilitating discussion and resistance to white supremacy on national and local levels. In addition to Leonard-Rock, the series featured co-facilitators Dr. Dwanna Robertson, Tre Wentling, Dr. Michael Sawyer, Liliana Delman, and Nikkita McPherson.
Director of The Butler Center Paul Buckley explained that this series was designed to engage the CC community in understanding white supremacy and its functions in every day lives. Furthermore, Buckley acknowledged that the series was also an explicit follow up to the letter he sent to students at the end of the summer about the incident at Charlottesville saying: “It is critical that the CC community understands that white supremacy terrorizes people of color and harms everyone every single day.”
Buckley continued, “We ought to be disturbed by its representations in torches and masks, hate speech and physical violence, and its demonstrations in curricula, seemingly subtle personal preferences, budget allocations, and assumptions we make about people of color in our friend groups— for examples.”
Junior Sophia Brown recognized the inclusiveness that the Butler Center displayed in the design of the series saying, “It’s important for us to be having these explicit conversations at CC and the Butler Center does a really good job of drawing people into these conversations who come from very different entry levels.”
During the series, attendees approached the topic by examining the origins, perpetuation, and consequences of white supremacy. Students and staff “unpacked” implications of the system through presentations, dialogues and small-group exercises.
Senior Eviva Kahne recognized the importance of the series taking on an educational form. “I was, and am, inspired by the direct use of white supremacy in the title of an education series,” Kahne said. “I think that that’s a bold move because one of the ways that white supremacy operates effectively is through silence. One of the ways it functions is by not talking about it or not saying what it is. I thought that the title alone was powerful and inspiring.”
The third installment was dedicated to re-clarifying terms such as race, racism, and power, as well as brainstorming tactics for debunking white supremacy in personal lives. In order to address the hulking topic of white supremacy, facilitators drew insight from published scholars and journalists like Frances Lee Ansley and Ta-Nehisi Coats. Use of literature and conversation guided attendees through challenging reflection.
First-year Emily Miner, who attended the third installment, appreciated the reflections, saying, “I like how central it was in these discussions to feel uncomfortable,” she explained.
The allowance of discomfort provided a space to listen more thoroughly concluded Miner. Similarly, first-year Elliot Williams benefited from the series as he processed his own position in the problem. “Especially in our political climate right now, it’s important to address white supremacy,” he said. “And as a white person, I feel like I have to be aware of my role in the system.”
Further opportunities to discuss and debunk white supremacy were advertised at the end of Wednesday’s meeting, as club co-chairs Kahne and Brown passed out flyers for Conversations on Whiteness.
Conversations on Whiteness is a Butler Center affiliated student group that aims to develop awareness and generate white alliances in the resistance against white supremacy. The club meets every first, second, and third Mondays of each Block to discuss topics related to racism and white privilege.
Professor Dwanna Robertson, who co-facilitated the first installment, expressed the significance of holding spaces for such revealing discussions. “To have that opportunity and time to look at the perpetuation of this problem, as well as ways to dismantle it, those time are what we need to dig deep and to find solutions for resistance against this force,” said Robertson.