Students examine their white privilege

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This article has been updated from a previous version.

The ALANA Student Center organized an “Examining White Privilege Retreat,” which received backlash from conservative news outlets.

In his article “Blame the White Guy 2015,” Todd Starnes expressed confusion and disagreement with the outing.

“As we all know the only way to build a stronger and inclusive university campus is to shame the white children into acknowledging they are person- ally responsible for every imaginable evil that has befallen the world,” Starnes wrote.

ALANA stands for African, Latino(a), Asian and Native American.

The retreat took place at the Common Ground Family Center in Starksboro, Vermont from Nov. 13 to Nov. 15, according to the ALANA Student Center’s website.

The Common Ground Family Center is a nonprofit recreation center, according to its website.

University communications released a statement about the retreat Nov. 20.

“This retreat was an example of the varied programs available at many universities to assist students in their quest for better understanding of culture and history in order to become responsible global leaders,” according to the statement.

Director of the ALANA Student Center, Beverly Colston, said the center agrees with University communication’s statement in a Dec. 1 email.

“Regarding the EWPR, the ALANA Student Center staff is pleased that students have another educational option to explore issues of  race,privilege, equity and inclusion,” Colston said in the email.

Students who attended the retreat said it was informative and inspirational.

“The retreat was amazing,” junior Noelle Pilger said. “We developed dialogue and conversational skills around racism, modeled how to appropriately respond to racist actions.”

Pilger disagreed with Starnes’ criticism.

“I think we’re all pretty shocked to read how one-sided and uniformed a media source can be,” she said. “Never have I ever seen how dangerous a biased report is, but I think it’s an important lesson for all of us to stay informed and check your sources.”

Pilger said she appreciates the support the retreat has rceived from students and believes UVM staff members have responded appropriately.

The retreat was designed to help students “conceptualize and articulate whiteness from a personal and systematic lens” as well as “build a community of dialogue and support in taking action against racism,” according to the event’s website.

One of the exercises was designed to help students acknowledge individual acts of racism and recognize that not every white person has been given the same lessons regarding race, according to the retreat outline and agenda.

This exercise would potentially be “the first time we’re really asking [the students] to admit to having acted [or]thought in racist ways,” according to the outline.

Starnes was not convinced by the goals of the retreat, and expressed confusion regarding the idea of whiteness.

“I’m also having a difficult time understanding what it means to self-identify as white,” he wrote. “Is that someone who belongs to a country club, cuts the crust off his bread and doesn’t have any discernible rhythm?”

Online media aggregate The Inquisitr also reported on the ALANA retreat. Over 1,000 people shared Tara West’s Inquistr article via Facebook.

“Some commenting on the retreat note that it is just another way to make white people feel as though they are racist even when they aren’t,” West wrote.

A previous version of this article titled “Students examine their white privilege” was published on Dec. 2.