Minnesota schools — like many across the country — are facing tight budgets these days. The school board recently announced almost $7 million in cuts and 94 teachers are slated to lose their jobs. But, as the Star Tribune’s Katherine Kersten points out, “there’s always room for in the budget for white guilt.”
The Lakeville schools are sending a delegation of teachers to the 12th annual “White Privilege Conference” at the Bloomington Sheraton from April 13-16. The district is shelling out $160 a pop — plus $125 a day for teacher subs — for this “white guilt” festival.
Organizers say they expect attendees from a number of other Minnesota districts.
The conference is “built on the premise that the U.S. was started by white people, for white people,” according to conference materials. Its mission is to get participants to confront their biases in a “journey in understanding white supremacy, whiteness, privilege, power and oppression,“ and to ”agree to take action in [their] own circle of power.”
The conference is sponsored by the Minnesota Justice Collaborative, a consortium of local higher-education and philanthropic institutions. It is expected to draw 1,500 teachers, students, activists, artists, social workers and counselors from more than 40 states. Minnesota public schools are represented on the list of speakers and workshop presenters.
What can Lakeville parents and taxpayers expect for their investment? To find out, we can peruse the keynote address for the 2009 conference. It was delivered by “social justice educator” Paul Kivel and appeared in the conference journal, “Understanding and Dismantling Privilege.”
Kivel begins with what passes these days as a prayer: “I want to acknowledge the creative spirits in the world that nurture and sustain us and that connect us to each other and to the plant and animal life around us.” Then he winds up for a fire-and-brimstone sermon. We Americans “are completely dependent on U.S. imperialism and war to sustain our daily lives.
They keynote speaker also complains that Christianity has too much influence in society today, having “played a key role in developing and justifying sources of oppression” — including “violence and genocide” — and is “the beginning of modern or biological racism.”
“Our school system has been set up … to perpetuate white supremacy and white privilege,” Kivel adds. Poor and minority students “do not drop out — they are pushed out.” We must look beyond our “declining empire” to “exciting progressive developments” in Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, he says, including “land reform and redistribution of wealth, neighborhood committees, recognition of women’s unpaid labor, end of spanking.”
Sponsors of the event include the University of Minnesota, the NAACP, the Denver Foundation and the YWCA of Minneapolis.