“So, How was the White Privilege Conference?”
Trying to answer this question might feel like trying to recap a trip to drug and alcohol rehab. Every day was a hundred miles long and a thousand miles deep. Which parts do I relay? What of it might you be able to really understand? Do you want me to describe the many different kinds of pain? Do you want to know where it was? Do you want me to say I had fun? Do you want me to say I’m better now? Do you want me to tell you what I ate while I was there? Do you want me to tell you who my roommate was? Or is it that you don’t have the slightest idea what rehab even is, and you don’t realize the impossible question you’re asking?
To deepen the analogy, because most people who ask me for a recap are white, it’s like coming home from rehab to a household of addicts in a community of addicts. Perhaps some are recovering, maybe were in rehab recently themselves. Some feel sorry for me, because they “don’t’ have a problem.” Some are flying high, even as they ask.
Do I try to make it sound like fun, so they’ll want to go with me next year? Do I say something inspiring so they might learn something new? If I tell them about the hard things, will they wonder why I went in the first place and vow never to go themselves? Should I even put myself through the discomfort of trying to figure out what to say? It’s over now. I could be quiet and go back to life as usual.
I hate to speak. I’m content on my own, I am no kind of expert, and I don’t like to cause a fuss.
In fact, one thing I have quickly learned is that “staying silent” is one of my most cherished privileges.
But like all of the privileges I enjoy, my silence doesn’t make the world a better place.
If you read the White Privilege Conference website (which perhaps you should do) you will learn that the WPC “examines challenging concepts of privilege and oppression and offers solutions and team-building strategies to work toward a more equitable world.” So that’s what the conference is, and this was the 17th one. If you’re wondering about white privilege in the first place, you also could look at the back of my new “Got Privilege?” tee shirt and read that “Many doors open for certain people through no virtues of their own.” For those who want something to chew on for awhile, that’s a place to start.
I cannot sum up the White Privilege Conference in one exchange, blog post or podcast episode. Instead, I invite you to be a part of this conversation. I invite you to take some moments to notice a few of the rights, advantages and immunities that are bestowed upon those of us born with lighter skin. And then, to talk about what you see.
My favorite part of the WPC was hearing Verna Myers speak. Her keynote address, “What If I Say the Wrong Thing?” was full of more important truths than my twitter skills allowed me to capture, beginning with “We cannot afford to be stuck and saturated in shame….. We don’t need any more good people. We need effective people. We need real people.”
And “If we can’t figure out how to talk with each other, it’s very unlikely that we’ll figure out how to build a whole new world.”
It’s uncomfortable and confusing, I’m going to do it wrong. I’m going to embarrass myself and feel things I’d rather not feel. But I do believe that until the planet works for all of us, it doesn’t really work for any of us.
And I want to live in a world that works for everyone.
— Amy Childs (@amy_childs) April 15, 2016