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Annual White Privilege Conference comes to Charlotte

Image taken from The Privilege Institute's Facebook page.

Hate groups have declined over the past few years from over 1,000 in 2018 to 733 last year, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual report released this week. But the civil rights advocacy group says this does not mean racism is declining. Instead, it’s becoming more mainstream in politics, on television and other areas. The report comes as a conference that focuses on racism and white supremacy is being held in Charlotte.

In its 23rd year, the White Privilege Conferenceexplores how white supremacy and racism affect all aspects of communities. Conference founder, Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr. says educators, best-selling authors, theologians and social justice activists will focus on white supremacy, religion and reciprocity in their sessions.

Moore: The theme gives us an opportunity to examine the history of white supremacy in the area of religion and also how we can continue to heal, continue to collaborate, to build more inclusive spaces. And also deal with some of the harms that happen through religion as it relates to white supremacy, white privilege and other forms of oppression. So, what I really do is really operate from the empowering framework that we can do better and the best way to do better is knowing how the injury or the inequity occurred if we're going to heal or if we're going to close them. And so that's the approach I take when looking at white supremacy, white privilege and other forms of oppression, helping people to understand you're not bad people, not to be demeaning.

Glenn: And you have been doing this for 23 years. What kind of people are attending your conferences?

Moore: We get people from all kinds of identifiers in reference to the diversity, which also challenges us to have a diverse curriculum. And we talk about power, privilege, white supremacy, white privilege from the vantage point that everybody has privilege. We're just affected by it in very different ways.

Glenn: What's the mindset, you know? Are you preaching to the choir? Are these people who have never heard of white privilege? What is the mindset of your attendees?

Moore: We get some 101 folks where this is the first time they've been in an area, in an arena, in a space where they're talking about white supremacy, white privilege and other forms of oppression. But we also get some advanced learners. Again, another way that we as organizers, as curriculum developers, workshop developers, have to be really comprehensive, really strategic, to be able to offer some learning for a range of folks — some who are in the choir but need to learn some new songs and some who are just really not sure and trying to understand, to get started.

Glenn: And this is a subject that can be very touchy, very confrontational. Can you think of some of these things that have caused the conversations to get tense or just debating?

Moore: Yeah, sometimes it's about the gender identity. I mean, sometimes women can believe that they have experienced just as much oppression as others. Yet the races of those women can be very different. So the work between white women and women of color can sometimes be a little tense. Also, with this topic of religion, the role of different denominations around white supremacy can sometimes present some challenges. But what holds the space is community agreement — informative, challenging, action-oriented.

Glenn: Have you ever had debate in terms of the phrase white privilege?

Moore: This is one of the most frequent questions I get around whether or not white privilege is real and whether or not people have experienced that and whether or not it makes their lives better. So yes, we're clear about that. When you come to the conference, this is what we're going to talk about. But when I'm out and about organizing, communicating the aspects to the conference in the community I'm all the time, often facing that very question.

Glenn: And what techniques or do you try to reach people who perhaps don't recognize the white privilege issue?

Moore: The strategy I use is everybody has privilege. So sometimes I don't start with white privilege. I start with hearing privilege, maybe ability privilege because most people can relate to that. And so maybe that brings them in to be able to understand privilege around gender, around class, around ability before we get to white.

Glenn: George Floyd's death kicked off so many protests and even police killings of people of color prior to that. The mood in the country has changed dramatically. Has your conference changed along with that?

Moore: I feel like our conference has finally received some recognition, some acknowledgment. What we've been trying to say is we've got to have these spaces to talk about white supremacy and its impact on people's behavior. And so I feel like some of the moments, some of the instances, some of the incidents that you mentioned beforehand really have now helped people to understand, "Oh, maybe what Dr. Eddy and the folks at the White Privilege Conference have been saying is something we need to attend, we need to pay attention to."

Glenn: Now, as you said, you've been doing this since the late '90s. What do you see as things you have accomplished with these conferences?

Moore: I think one of the more tangible things that we feel great about, that I feel great about as the founder, is that the term white privilege is now discussed on the news and people have some awareness of it. In 1999, it's rare that you would hear these terms or have these conversations happening in public sectors, happening even at universities. So I feel like — I'm not saying the White Privilege Conference is the sole cause of that — but I do feel like we've been a part of helping people to be better skilled and better informed so that now when you say white privilege, there's some familiarity with that term.

Glenn: What is something that you would like to say to listeners about attending this conference?

Moore: First the conference is definitely not for everybody. You need to have done some work to be able to come here and do some work. Secondly, we believe everybody has privilege. It's not about tearing you down, beating you up. It's really about understanding. Because we say if you can understand privilege, you can do good things with it. So this is a conference built around empowerment. And if you are interested in and continuing to move our nation as well as your lovely city — because there are some inequities, there's some real gaps right there in Charlotte — that this can be accomplished to assist with that skill building, that relationship building, so we can continue to progress and move forward.

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Gwendolyn is an award-winning journalist who has covered a broad range of stories on the local and national levels. Her experience includes producing on-air reports for National Public Radio and she worked full-time as a producer for NPR’s All Things Considered news program for five years. She worked for several years as an on-air contract reporter for CNN in Atlanta and worked in print as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Washington Post and covered Congress and various federal agencies for the Daily Environment Report and Real Estate Finance Today. Glenn has won awards for her reports from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association, SNA and the first-place radio award from the National Association of Black Journalists.