A law prohibiting the marriage of a white person to a black person, aiming to “save” white women, was not repealed until the 1960s.
That was but one of the memorable lessons Kenneth Norby, a senior at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, learned while attending the White Privilege Conference April 7-10 in La Crosse.
Norby, a math and German education major, said he learned that unintentional racism is still racism and that micro-aggressions, unintentional acts of racism that one says or does because of assumptions about another person based on their race, gender or other characteristics happen more often than he had thought.
“I’ll be honest, realizing some of these things is actually an emotional experience. Last year, I went to a workshop and was brought to tears,” said Norby, who attended the conference last year, too.
More than 40 students and faculty members from UW Oshkosh attended the 11th annual event, which offers workshops, critical discussions and keynote speakers to examine difficult issues related to white privilege, white supremacy and oppression.
Marguerite Parks, associate dean of the College of Education and Human Services at UW Oshkosh, said it is more than a diversity conference.
“I call it a working conference,” she said. “It’s not a conference where you sit and listen. You learn how to become a social activist for equality. It’s about action.”
Parks has taken students of varying ethnic backgrounds to the conference in years past and said they all benefit from attending it.
“Everybody gets something different out of the conference, depending on where you are coming from,” she said. “I hope the students learn skills to bring back to campus to help us make a welcoming environment for everyone.”
Norby said he wants to raise awareness of white privilege at UW Oshkosh.
“It is so easy for people to downplay white privilege like it doesn’t exist,” he said.
The conference featured five keynote speakers, including Shakti Butler, Joy Degruy, Ariel Luckey, Spero Manson and Vernellia Randall.
For more information on the White Privilege Conference, visit www.uccs.edu/~wpc.