In the midst of what seems to be an endless barrage of unarmed Black men being gunned down by police, New York University has launched a new group on campus that will get white administrators to not only discuss racial tensions but to also look for ways to “deconstruct” white privilege.
From civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton to Christian rapper Lecrae, prominent Black figures from all across the nation have been extremely vocal in their fight for equality following the death of unarmed Ferguson teen Michael Brown.
The presence of Black voices at such a trying time is key to the nation’s progress but what is also just as important is for members of the white community to acknowledge their white privilege and stand in solidarity against racist institutions that have subjugated people of color for centuries.
The new group at NYU is hoping to do just that.
The university recently launched a weekly discussion group called White Administrators Talk Race (WATR) and hopes it will allow educators at the school to find ways to combat racism in America by utilizing the privileges they already have as white citizens.
The group’s goal is to “identify ways in which [members] can all stand in solidarity against systems of oppression” and “deconstruct the complexities and reality of white privilege,” according the university’s official website.
The group discussions will also serve as a time to reflect on their own biases and stereotypes and see how they can address those concerns.
Despite the group’s name, the weekly meeting is open to administrators of all races.
One administrator who attends the WATR meetings said the group is especially necessary considering the events that have unfolded in Ferguson.
“In light of the recent Ferguson decision, I think it’s even more imperative for white administrators to understand their own power and privilege and how they can use that privilege to be good allies to people of color and to effect positive change,” said administrator Justin Lerner to Washington Square News.
Co-facilitator Miriam Halsey explained that there were already such groups and programs that allowed students of all races to engage in such discussions, but nothing was available for administrators who wanted to do so.
“There is a lot of programming for students at NYU, obviously, but I think the staff administrators also want to be a part of the conversation,” Halsey told the university’s paper, according to the Washington Times.
While many students were extremely supportive of the group and excited about its existence, some people have expressed concerns that the group’s title could send the wrong message.
“By operating under a title that only mentions white administrators, individuals of color may feel discouraged from participating,” the Square News editorial board wrote.
Despite the concerns, the Center for Multicultural Education director Selima Jumarali said the group has already taken that into consideration and remains cautious when it comes to marketing.
Jumarali said that the university is “very careful…about not marketing it as a group that is just for white administrators.”
A student version of the group also meets weekly on campus under the name Unpacking Whiteness.