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National Conference on Whiteness and White American Culture - November 1996

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Participant Feedback

Date: Fri, 15 Nov 1996 

From: Chrisanne Garrett 

Subject: Thoughts on the Conference

Two days after returning from the conference, I was facilitating a

"lunch and learn" session on gender issues at an office of a major

utility here in the DC area.  One of the activities I used was to divide

the group into four "teams," one all women, one all men, and two mixed. 

I asked the teams to move to four flipcharts in the room and complete

four stems with ten ideas each.  The stems were:  Affirmative Action is

....., A Feminist is ....., White men are ....., and Sexual Harassment

is .... . As usually happens for me with audiences in corporations and

businesses, I was very disappointed and disturbed at the responses.  For

example, the most positive thing the men could think of for one stem

was, "A Feminist is ugly."  The responses about Affirmative Action were

truly depressing.

I came from the conference feeling very hopeful (as distinguished from

optimistic, thanks to the enlightenment on these terms from Don), but my

hope was quickly compromised as I returned to the real world.  It occurs

to me that the wonderful ad campaign that Lowell has created is very

important.  People are incredibly misinformed, miseducated, and misled.

At the conference, I met wonderful people who prove to me that it is

possible for people to be informed and educated.  For a rare two days I

felt that I was HOME.  For once, I did not feel like the wierd one --

the lone voice.  I did not feel like I had to explain to anyone why I am

passionate about these issues and why I devote my life to the

eradication of injustice.  I could "exhale" and just be me.

I also learned that it is possible for people to lead.  I met 52

leaders, and am proud to now know white male leaders like Jeff, Todd,

and Daniel; white female leaders like Patti, Angela, and Arlene, black

male leaders like Lowell and Don, and black female leaders like Sharon

and Charley.  I mention these because they are the ones with whom I had

the most contact -- not in any way to distinguish them from all the

other leaders.

I was tremendously moved by the group from U. Mass, Amherst.  I crave

for that level of dialogue, and am highly impressed with the level of

skill and sophistication with which the students challenge each other,

support each other, agree and disagree with each other, and listen to

each other as they jointly explore very challenging and difficult


I look forward to the next conference -- I trust that it will become an

annual event.  My thanks to all.

Chris Garrett

Date: Thu, 14 Nov 1996


From: Sharon Elise 


I had a wonderful, stimulating experience at the conference last week.  It

was particularly heartening to meet so many people who are committed to justice.

I returned to my campus, California State University at San Marcos (in

Northern San Diego County) on Monday.  There, I found out from "hall talk"

that I  had become the lastest victim of hate crimes on campus.  Apparently,

the previous Monday (the fourth of NOv.), a police officer discovered my

name wrapped up in a swastika on a bathroom wall--along with a threat.

However, neither I  nor my family members were notified by University


As you may recall from things I said at our conference, these are not new

events on my campus.  And the late, inept responses of our administration

are not new either.  I feel like a moving target, and I feel terrorized.  I

wish they had told me while I was with you all--while I am getting a lot of

sympathy here, there are few warriors ready for action, few posed for

proactive agendas.  And among our students, what we see is a major back lash

going on.  The students are "tired of hearing about race" and "tired of

having race shoved down [their] throats."   They are angry about the

teach-in we held late last month on "Institutional Racism and Hate Crimes."

They feel attacked  when people of color tell them what we are experiencing.

To speak about racism is to attack whites, they think.  

I am at a loss for strategies beyond daily survival.  I get up, go out, and

look over my shoulder. I have had to change the way I am, but I see no

institutional changes.   What the hell strategies/tactics are we going to

come up with to combat what appears to be a major, rapid return to the past?

From Jeff Hitchcock: There is no "official" version of what happened at the conference. Just individual stories and experiences. The conference took responsibility for itself, and allowed me to attend as one of the 52 participants. That was my greatest joy. In the forthcoming weeks, the Center for Study will make this site available to participants as a means for bringing their stories, however they may please, to a broader public.

Conference participants, thank you. It was only a theory, and some thought it a dubious one, that a mostly white but multiracial group of fifty people could assemble and remain focused on a discussion of whiteness over two days. For those whose beliefs rested on the feeling this could never have happened, it's time to reconsider. Because it has.

Jeff Hitchcock
1996 conference participant

Date: 1/11/97 9:15 AM

To: 1996 conference participants

From: Center for Study 

Re: Feedback on conference

Dear Conference Participant:

We are looking for feedback on our (yours and ours) recent whiteness conference.

Below is a set of questions we'd like you to answer.  If you prefer, simply send us 

your impressions in free form.

The conference still continues to generate interest among people who did not attend.

We would like to bring the experience of participants before a larger public.  We'll 

list your replies verbatim (no editing) on the web site

beginning in February.

Also, those people who respond in the next week (by Friday, Jan. 17 or

thereabouts) will help us by giving us material upon which to draw for a story on the

conference in the Winter Quarterly Newsletter (much appreciated).


Finally, we will use your responses to help in the planning of the 1997 conference.

Please do not send responses to this message that you don't want us to publish in

the newsletter or on the web site.  If you have any private concerns, a separate

message is fine.

So..... please help us keep the process moving forward, hit the reply button, 

and send us your impressions.

Respectfully yours,

Jeff Hitchcock & Charley Flint


Q U E S T I O N S   ***   Q U E S T I O N S   ***   Q U E S T I O N S   


Why did you come?

What did you expect?

What were some positive things that happened?  Some negative things?

Did you learn or experience anything new?

Did the conference meet your expectations?

Which workshops and discussions did you attend, and how did you feel about them?

How did you feel about other participants you met?

Were the organizational and logistical features of the conference site and program

managed in a satisfactory way?

How did it feel to return home after the conference experience?

Was the conference worthwhile?  Should another one be held in 1997?

Date: Fri, 24 Jan 1997 

To: Center for Study 

From: John Bilal 

Subject: Re: Feedback on conference

>Why did you come?

To see what white people had planned to help berid the world of White Supremacy.


>What did you expect?

Nothing at all.


>What were some positive things that happened?  Some negative things?

I saw people talking about the system of White Supremacy.  I saw some people

who appeared sincere, and some people who didn't.  I saw students who were

being allowed to express themselves vigorously on the topic of racism/white

supremacy, I fear for them, especially the white students. 


>Did you learn or experience anything new?

Yes.  I learned that White Supremacy still is the baddest thing on the block

and that some White people are expressing a fear of going up against that



>Did the conference meet your expectations?

Yes, because I had none.


>Which workshops and discussions did you attend, and how did you feel about


Harry Brod's conference, it was very confusing and didn't teach me much.

Harry was very very vague.  My time would have been better spent elsewhere.

I found the late night, informal talk to be the most revealing.  That should

be a part of the conference this year too.  The session with the students

was by far the best thing I witnessed.  My conversations with them were

constructive too.


>How did you feel about other participants you met?  

Whoa!  There were quite a few weren't there.  Well, I thought the sexual

preference of the participants was very obvious.  Many spoke openly about

being gay.  Several of the white participants were involved/married with

non-white people.  I thought that this was interesting.  Is this the impetus

to end racism?  Because of conflict within so-called relationships between

black people and white people?  I don't know.  The conference would say,

sexual activity between white people and black people has a lot to do with

motivating white people to DO something about racism/white supremacy.  The

problem is ARE THEY DOING ANYTHING AT ALL?  I don't think so.  I suspect its

about another TRICK.  I also thought that it was interesting that the

representation was ACADEMIA.  I guess its to be expected for we all met over

the internet!  I guess some people don't either have the resources for the

internet or the resources to travel to NJ.


>Were the organizational and logistical features of the conference site and

>program managed in a satisfactory way?



>How did it feel to return home after the conference experience?

Typical.  No different than usual, like coming home from work.


>Was the conference worthwhile?  Should another one be held in 1997?

Yes, I think it was worth the effort.  I would come again.




John S. Bilal II VOR 1/0  Mechanical Supervisor

TQM + TQR =  Peace and Productivity in the Workplace!

GFSC Phone:  301-286-6440     

Pager:   301-454-2851	

Fax:       301-286-0231

E-Mail Hm:     

E-Mail Wk: 

Date: Fri, 21 Mar 1997 

From: Daniel Hall 

(Reprinted by permission from the whitness listserv)

"Before the conference, which for me was one anti-racist event of three events I

attended on an east coast trip, I was intenetting like crazy.  I had been reading

for years, talking with friends, and internetting, all about what I would like to

do.  At the conference and afterwards I was tremendously energized, but not in the

direction of internetting, reading and academia.  I realized yet again that I

should shut up talking *about* what I wanted to do, and go ahead and do it.

"I left academia 14 years ago because I finally learned that argument is not a means

of discovering truth.  It can be a means of testing it.  But what I want to do, and

have talked of wanting to do, is reveal my experience of oppression from the

oppressor's position (white, male, upper-class, wealthy, Protestant Christian).

This revealing isn't most easily done through argument (defining terms, etc.,

etc.), but perhaps better through fiction or poetry.  I find telling stories and

then hearing the responses to those stories (which may not at first, on the

surface, appear to hang together logically) is the fastest and most powerful means

of revealing the truth of the existence and processes of white supremacy.  Once

they are revealed, then argument becomes good and necessary.

"I went to the conference to meet like-minded people, and it was successful in that

far beyond what I had hoped.  I had in fact prepared for disappointment, precisely

because this listserv had made me believe there were insurmountable disagreements

among us.  What was and is not revealed on this listserv are the tremendous

commonalities, which seem to focus around our motivations for this work and the

craziness we feel in believing we're the only ones who see white supremacy all

around us.  The stories.  What I fed on at the conference were the stories.

"Consequently, I can no longer get so excited about the intellectualizing that I so

poured myself into previously.  I have been spending the weeks since the conference

completing essays and monologues and fictional pieces, centered once again not only

on my need to tell white supremacist stories, but on the need to widen the

publication of those stories into the public eye, which for me means searching out

publication in other media than the internet.  I now see this listserv as a place

to ask questions, seek out resources, as a place to cry out when things get too

much and as a reminder that I am not alone."



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