A “Race Discussion Guide” issued by the University of Tennessee Chattanooga (UTC) emphasizes its focus on the role and reality of White people. The Office of Equity and Inclusion created the guide with the purpose of helping UTC students, faculty, and staff navigate conversations on race.
In the 7 pages of information offered, the guide exclusively referenced White people no less than 17 times. Many of those references were linked to assumptions about White people or relationships with White people. Nowhere in the guide does it mention any other group of people by their skin color, such as Black individuals.
Assumptions specifically about White people included:
“Sometimes educators feel reluctant to raise the topic of race, especially if they are teaching in a predominantly White community.”
“Students, and White students in particular, sometimes don’t participate in discussions about race because they feel inadequate, worry they’ll be mocked, are embarrassed by their lack of knowledge, or are concerned that strong feelings will arise.”
“There are many White people who believe the best way to eliminate racism is to not talk about it and not notice racial differences at all (i.e. be ‘colorblind’).”
“It is often the case that White people who have always been in the majority do not think about their own racial identity the way that people of color often do.”
“Recognize that learning about race and racism is a process because many White students may not have had the opportunity to reflect on and discuss it.”
“Sometimes White students think that race does not apply to them and includes only people of color.”
The guide didn’t specify which resources were used to establish those conclusions.
The OEI Director for UTC, Rosite Delgado, wrote the introductory letter on the guide. Delgado didn’t respond to requests from The Tennessee Star for the resources and data relied upon to make the guide. It is unclear how this guide is used on campus.
The UTC guide also included a section specifically on addressing “White privilege in non-defensive ways.” It noted that, although White individuals might feel anxiety or become defensive about the topic, the discussion shouldn’t induce guilt. It suggested that experiences of ageism – discrimination based on age – might allow students to better understand White privilege.
“The goal should be to help students understand and analyze issues of power and privilege as they relate to racism,” read the guide.
In another section addressing how students could act as “allies,” the only group offered guidance were White people. The guide stated that White people should identify, condemn, and challenge racism.
The final three pages were devoted to discussions of race and racism in the UTC workplace. The guide asserted that conversational roadblocks included: not noticing skin color, not talking about differences, and not wanting to say potentially inappropriate things for fear of retaliation.
Information on the document suggested that UTC published the guide last August.
As The Star reported previously, OEI was also responsible for its Moving Our Campus (MOC) Forward series on dismantling racism, which initiated this semester with a speaker addressing White allies and accountability.
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