VIDEO: University of Montana professor 'unpacks white privilege'

Campus Reform Reporter

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  • Dr. Tobin Miller Shearer argues that imbalances in many statistics can be traced to systemic racism.
  • Overcoming that racism will take "truly multicultural and multiracial collectives."
  • This article has been corrected. Dr. Tobin Miller Shearer is a professor at the University of Montana, not Montana State University.

    Montana State University (MSU) hosted a “public dialogue” last Tuesday so people could “gain [a] better understanding of what white privilege means in a predominantly white state.”

    "People are uninformed. We need to understand the kinds of history of privilege and power and racism that I was discussing tonight in order to be informed, and stop making fools of ourselves in many instances."   

    According to MSU’s calendar events page, “Unpacking White Privilege in Montana: A Public Dialogue,” featured Tobin Miller Shearer, the University of Montana's coordinator of African American Studies and an assistant professor of history.

    “To be white in America is to claim an identity that attempts to be de-racialized and is predicated upon the receipt of power and privilege simply on one’s appearance: a racialized appearance from the fundamental equations that whiteness equals access to power and privilege based on one’s racial identity,” Shearer explains in a YouTube video by the MSU Exponent.

    Shearer argues that every major economic, health, educational, and justice statistic can be traced to systemic racism. Addressing that racism, he says, will require “engaging and organizing efforts that are no longer predicated with white people no longer being in charge of how the change happens, no longer with white people being the ones to make the decisions about what the emphasis of the organizing efforts will be, but rather look for truly mutlicultural and multiracial collectives that have a common understanding of the way racism acts.”

    Watch: Professor explains and unpacks white privilege.

    Near the end of the video, Shearer warns that “the greatest danger [sic] anyone can do—students or others—is to simply assume that you know…that you have what you need to know from the public media.

    “People are uninformed. We need to understand the kinds of history of privilege and power and racism that I was discussing tonight in order to be informed, and stop making fools of ourselves in many instances.”

    Kiah Abbey, MSU Sustained Dialogue co-founder, praised Shearer’s talk, saying he did , “a great job on describing the concept of white privilege because it can be a scary concept, and a concept that causes shame and guilt and questioning and anger and frustration.”

    The event was sponsored by the Diversity Awareness Office, MSU Sustained Dialogue, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Associated Students of Montana State University, the Department of Liberal Studies, and the Department of Political Science.

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter @SteveLarson

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