President’s Dialogue on Diversity focuses on white fragility

By Kendall Koch, Reporter

“In this presentation, we are not looking to decide if white privilege exists, it’s a real thing, instead we are going…to discover whether or not you as a dominant cultured member here today, as white members, to figure out what components are you using to hide your white privilege,” EWU graduate Dr. Claudine Richardson said.

A fully packed room with students from all walks of life attended the President’s Dialogue on Diversity  to hear Richardson speak about white fragility. Richardson spoke to EWU students and faculty as a part of the president’s dialogue series.

“I am truly honored to be here at Eastern Washington University,” Richardson said in her presentation. “I continue to see the dream of various presidents and past to keep providing these opportunities to educate students.”

Richardson began the presentation by having attendees say the word “white” multiple times.

“The reason why I had you say the word multiple times is because if you are a white person, you have grown extremely comfortable without being called out,” Richardson said. “Historically in this country you have been the norm, and the norm has not had to identify themselves, you have walked with the privilege of having the ability to use fictitious ideas and concepts to justify your behavior and mannerisms.”

Richardson further explained this concept, saying that those who identify as white get to talk about color knowing that it makes them look good.

“If you are a person of color you already know what it is like to be minoritized in this country; all we are doing is calling out white fragility,” Richardson said. “There are ground rules–if you are uncomfortable with this conversation, learn to stick with it.”

Richardson defined white fragility as  the lack of stamina to deal with issues of privilege pertaining to white groups and denial of benefits for white people. Richardson had attendees discuss the topic with facilitators at their tables.

Richardson also discussed how children at a young age are taught to not speak about color or not to identify color and how it has impacted them later in life.

“Basically, to be comfortable living a life where you don’t see difference and therefore you don’t have to discuss inequality, you don’t have to talk about social injustices,” Richardson said.

Kimberlee Davis, the Director of Diversity for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, was one of the many people in attendance, and commented on Cheney and its demographics.

“It is essential for us to openly discuss the barriers that impede frank dialogue about racism in its many forms,” Davis said. “We are a university community residing in a predominantly white region, we need to be aware that our own behaviors and reactions in discussions on race often silence those who might otherwise acknowledge their personal experiences with racism.”

Two students who attended the event, Chelsea Price and Andrew Hudson, wanted to know more about the information given. Price, who is pusuing a master’s in History,  said she enjoyed the presentation and thought it was a good step forward for the university.

“I think it’s great, I think that we need to create more avenues for faculty, students and community members to have open conversations about race and white fragility,” Price said.

Hudson, a social work master’s student also commented on the presentation.

“I think it’s a great platform and by someone who is an alumnus here, having tables with faculty and students at different levels here is so cool to watch and experience,” Hudson said. “I know for me, as a black male, talking about this can be tiresome, but hopefully it isn’t always tiresome and everyone can grow from that.”