They held an event at Concordia College in Moorhead on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day entitled, "How to embrace your inner racist: A session for white people."
Judging the title through a literal lens, it would seem that the event's organizers were not just looking to stir the pot and draw attention, they were begging for trouble.
But perhaps it's encouraging, then, that the event's existence didn't trigger the entire Fargo-Moorhead metro area being set aflame by protesters clashing in the streets. Maybe people are starting to get it, even if it's only one microscopic step at a time. Maybe more people are becoming "woke," even if I despise that particular term as it is casually tossed about today. Are you truly "woke," or in actuality are you simply preoccupied and possibly even obsessed with overreacting to just about everything and making mountains out of millions of grains of sand that you call micro-aggressions?
The Concordia session on MLK Jr. Day generated some media coverage up and down the Red River Valley, and, yes, the Associated Press assigned someone to write a short article on the subject, but it was mostly an opportunity for Concordia's administration to explain that the event was intentionally organized, designed and titled to raise eyebrows, to be "provocative" and to get people to not only think a little bit, but attend. And, yes, the college's administration went on to say, it was designed for white people, although any people of color would not be turned away.
An online description of the event indicated that “attendees will be able to recognize and acknowledge that there is a nasty little racist inside them." A bit harsh, right? But what could go wrong, really, other than a bunch of white people who feel enlightened, respectful and welcoming when it comes to appreciating diversity riding in on their high horse and leaving the event afterward feeling minuscule and overwrought with guilt over how it's possible they could have been so off-base in their self-assessment of their feelings on race?
“The description of the session itself was designed, certainly, to bring some attention. It was a bit provocative. It was a bit edgy” Karl Stumo, Concordia’s vice president for enrollment and marketing, told KFGO-AM. He added that the session was designed for students “to ask tough questions of themselves and other people.”
The thinking here is, why not? Why not turn inward? The people of this country have been bombarded with racial debates for generations, and rightly so, but since Barack Obama's election as this nation's first African-American president in 2008, it's been timely and appropriate for people to explore the depths of their own souls, to look in their own mirror as they endeavor to find out once and for all exactly what they're truly and honestly comfortable with.
This self-examination has led to countless exchanges, in person and on social media, that open with qualifiers such as:
"I'm not a racist..."
"I don' have a racist bone in my body..."
"I have all kinds of non-white friends..."
"I don't even see skin colors..."
And what is so often the next word in the conversation?
Rarely does something positive and productive follow.
But, hey, let us make our claims. It’s a start, at least, to not want to appear outwardly as a close-minded individual. But we need to believe our own claims before we can worry about anyone else’s potential inner demons.
But, please, don’t say you don’t even see skin colors. Our different tints and shades are beautiful and something to celebrate, not something to pretend don’t even exist as we try to appear enlightened when we gaze out at the world.