Dr. Eddie Moore Jr., founder of the White Privilege Conference (WPC), coined the phrase “VACTION: Venting Plus Action,” in relation to racial equity and social justice work—a sentiment anyone working to deconstruct white privilege can relate to in our current (and past) political climates. And, there is a lot to vent about: The fact that "Standing Rock" marked the U.S. Government breaking 100% of treaties ever signed with Native Americans; or the fact that the Chicago PD actively articulates, understands, and utilizes the formula for how to create a killer (provide no place to live, work, or go to school, then hire “us” [the police] to contain the situation). But, Dr. Moore is right: we need to do more than be angry. Below are three VACTIONS I was recently inspired to take at conference for deconstructing whiteness.
1. Welcome Struggle
Dr. Bettina Love noted, “If you say you are about social justice, you have to welcome struggle … not just accept it, but welcome it.” Because struggle is coming. As a white, middle-class man, I am definitely privileged in that my struggle for social justice looks different than the struggle for marginalized groups of people. Remembering that doesn’t minimize anyone’s struggle; instead, it reinforces that white folks need to take responsibility for deconstructing whiteness, given that white people created it.
2. Recognize the Cisgender – Able Bodied – White Supremacist – Capitalist – Heteropatriarchy
Intersectional analysis allows us to see how all oppression grows from the same dominant power structure of cisgender - able bodied - white supremacist - capitalist - heteropatriarchy that bell hooks first articulated for us. Therefore, any selectivism for which oppression to fight, or conversely which oppression to ignore (thereby supporting), can never truly lead to dismantling the dominant oppressive structure as a whole. Eli Clare made the point that whenever we question Donald Trump's disability status we are actually supporting the cisgender - able bodied - white supremacist - capitalist - heteropatriarchy Trump stands for. Like many, our president’s comments make me want to vent and question his mental sanity as well as speculate around his disability status. As a special education teacher my mind goes through a litany of diagnosis whenever I think about Trump; however, each time my mind dismisses his actions or comments as a result of a disability, I support white supremacy by using the dominant narrative to "other" Trump based on potential disability status. I can challenge Trump without marginalizing him. Dr. Love reminds us that in order to dismantle white privilege, “We need to center the most marginalized first.” Including people of color with disabilities, queer women of color, the youth, and black and brown gender variant individuals—to name a few. White, wealthy, cis-men, like Trump, don’t need to be centered.
3. Create Fugitive Space
Dr. David Stovall defined Fugitive Space as "making a way out of no way,” and fugitive thinking as "asking questions about the way things are and then re-imagining it.” The White Privilege Conference (WPC) is one of only a few national black-founded and run conferences, grown now to thousands of diverse members. WPC represents Fugitive Space. A space that is often not found in most schools. Dr. Love gave an example of this: “When you take art out of schools, you are taking the way black and brown folks sustain themselves out of schools.” You are taking one of the few generally Fugitive Spaces out of schools. Dr. Stovall expanded on this idea of creating space for black and brown people: “Safety is a veil. ... It can often mean the containment of black and brown folks. … Safety should mean that everybody feels love and belonging.” In our current time, the containment of black and brown folks can be seen in the massive school-to- prison pipeline, which Dr. Stovall pushed us to recognize as much bigger: a school and prison nexus that criminalizes the fugitive actions of black and brown folks, such as breathing in white spaces.
Whiteness strives to stifle Fugitive Space, thinking, and actions. Peggy McIntosh adds that even when white folks are well-intentioned, often, “White control takes over and puts on the brakes and says ‘wait, I do not want to give up my goodies.’” But, repression does not lead to liberation. As an educator, my daily Vaction needs to be figuring out how to create Fugitive Space where my own white control does not put on the brakes and we end the school-to-prison nexus, centering the most marginalized in our society … and I’m ready for the struggle!