Alumni join students for 10-week workshop about race relations

Alumni join students for a 10-week workshop about race relations.

Last fall 50 alumni and students met up to explore issues of race, equity and privilege. The new course in interrupting privilege was led by Associate Professor Ralina Joseph, organized by the UW Alumni Association and linked to a series of UWAA and Graduate School public lectures about equity, life for undocumented immigrants and how to talk about race.

Why did you take this 10-week workshop about interrupting privilege?

Antonia Martinez: I was curious about the topic. I want to continue to be engaged in that conversation and with the University, and now I want to do more. This workshop reminded me that we still have to continue to talk and to move the line on the thinking about race and privilege.

Tae McKenzie: I had a class with Ralina Joseph (who led the workshop). I just fell in love with her teaching style and I really liked the work that is going on here at the Center for Communication Equity and Difference (which Joseph founded). I wondered how we can bridge the gaps and how I can interrupt privilege.

What did you find meaningful or memorable from the experience?

Havana McElvaine: Megan Ming Francis’s presentation. I sat down in that packed room in Kane Hall and realized, wow, this is going to be controversial.  (Francis, a UW assistant professor of political science and author of “Civil Rights and the Making of the Modern American State,” talked frankly about race and violence in American politics.)

Antonia: It was refreshing because in years past, talks like this weren’t the status quo. Now this generation of academics at the University is really being introduced to the world. You realize this is going to be something special to watch.

Tae: Listening to faculty like Dr. Francis and Dr. Joseph shows us we can be who we are. We can call out what we believe and are passionate about and that’s OK.

Havana: I can say some of my teachers here are powerful, influential, educated women of color. I never had that growing up. Now I think, “Wow, this is badass.”

What would you say to alumni and students thinking of taking the workshops?

Antonia: What are they waiting for? I wanted to know what is coming with this next generation of students. It was refreshing. It was so hopeful.

Tae: This class was challenging and affirming at the same time. You realize you have to listen to understand the others’ viewpoints. And you have to understand their viewpoints if you want to help them see things differently.

Havana: It’s hard to have conversations about race. You have to use words like “white,” and “black.” It’s one thing to say you’re committed to ideas of social justice, but hard to do much. This class is a good starting point. It forces you to think, what is my role as a student? As an alum?

A second workshop is currently underway and a third is scheduled to start spring quarter.