by TIM JOHNSON
Growing up in Braham, Minnesota, a small town north of the Twin Cities, few people if any gave thought to what it meant to be white in this country. Although, it was never addressed directly, whiteness was taken for granted and therefore there was no need to name it. The theme of this year’s Overcoming Racism Conference, “Dismantling White Supremacy: Its Power, Structures & Culture,” would have made no sense. The Overcoming Racism Conference now in its 11th year and held at Metropolitan State University on November 15 &16 is intended to address an issue that many folks in Minnesota felt no need to consider. Now, of course, being white is in the news, sometimes elevated by people who feel threatened by the growing diversity in our state and nation.
If you are interested in learning more or deepening your understanding as to how the notion of being white has shaped our history, culture and structures, registration for the Conference opens on September 1. Simply go to Overcomingracism.org, click on the conference and follow the link. This year’s keynote speakers are Winona LaDuke, a member of the White Earth Nation and internationally known activist, and Joe Feagin author of many books on racism including the highly influential “The White Racial Frame.” The Saturday morning plenary will be a performance by Exposed Brick Theatre presenting an adaptation of “American as Curry Pie,” followed by a facilitated discussion with the audience. Afternoons provide an opportunity to choose from more than 50 workshops addressing the racial justice goals of the conference. There is room for approximately 400 people and registration always fills early.
The Overcoming Racism Conference is organized the by the Facilitating Racial Equity Collaborative (FREC). FREC is an outgrowth of a conference held at and sponsored by Cherokee Park United Church in collaboration with Antiracism Study Dialogue Circles, another St. Paul based organization working to address the continuing legacy of racism. FREC is primarily volunteer-based and is open to anyone wishing to be involved with an organization dedicated to addressing racial justice. The keynote presentations for this year’s conference will be live streamed to Bemidji and possibly Rochester, where folks are organizing their own afternoon workshops. The hope is to continue inviting folks in Greater Minnesota into the conversation.
As a 68-year-old white male, a conversation about dismantling white supremacy is a long distance from what I knew and experienced in my hometown of Braham. But I continue to learn that white supremacy, like all the other forms of hierarchy and domination, ultimately negatively impact us all.
For Information and Registration see Overcomingracism.org.
by TIM JOHNSON