Whites-only group explores its 'racist superiority' at MIT
- A group of white faculty and staff members at MIT have formed a “White Person’s Accountability Group” to help white people understand their “roles both in perpetuating systemic racism and in dismantling it.”
- Membership in the group is intentionally kept small, but the organizers encourage others to form their own "white caucus" groups and provide summary reports of each meeting to "people of color" on campus.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) now has a “White Person’s Accountability Group” to help white people understand their “roles both in perpetuating systemic racism and in dismantling it.”
According to a copy of the group’s mission statement, it was formed in reaction to the notorious “White Privilege Conference,” during which “a mixed-race group of MIT community members” realized “how different their experience had been in the WPC [White Privilege Conference] space and that there was a lot they could do with other white people to dismantle internal and structural racism.”
Drawing on that experience, white members of the group decided to begin holding monthly meetings to “hold one another accountable to advancing racial justice in [their] own personal, institutional, and societal spheres.”
The group has also sought to engage with the school community more broadly, recently hosting a campus-wide event called “But I’m Not Racist!” for white people to “engage with their own identities.”
The “White Person’s Accountability Group” is not seeking recruits, however, explaining that it has intentionally “been kept small” since its purpose is for participants to “share personal experiences and build relationships of accountability with one another.” Instead, members of the group are encouraging their peers to start similar organizations, even providing guidelines on “building an effective white caucus.”
Racial caucuses, the document explains, are forums “where people of color and white people meet separately for a time to counsel together,” with a “white caucus” having the intended purpose of helping white people “uncover the depths of their internalized racist superiority.”
“The purpose of a white caucus is to provide a space where white people can share struggles and challenge each other as they seek to uncover the depths of their internalized racist superiority (IRS) and build their capacity for solidarity with people of color,” the guidelines explain, warning that “as long as IRS goes unrecognized and unchecked by white people, its manifestations will at the least create unhealthy relationships with people of color and eventually make solidarity impossible.”
MIT students and faculty who wish to start a “white caucus” are advised to “provide a summary report of each meeting [to] people of color,” remembering that “people of color should be the ones to determine what is appropriate,” but are also warned that “there is a fine line between seeking accountability and adding another burden on people of color.”
Indeed, the document suggests that caucus members “seek out a group of people of color” to which they can make their reports, stressing the importance of “ongoing relationships between each caucus member and a person of color.”
Even with such an arrangement in place, however, the guidelines caution that “a white caucus should never discuss issues about people of color, but rather should focus on white people’s issues,” recommending that members “practice feeling and dealing with the feelings associated with dismantling racism (fear, shame, guilt, anger depression…joy, relief, connection),” while developing a “sense of anger about racism.”
The “White Person’s Accountability Group” appears to be the only white caucus on MIT’s campus currently, and counts numerous MIT faculty members and staff among its 11 members, including some distinguished professors such as Edmund Bertschinger.
Campus Reform reached out to MIT to inquire about whether or not the “White Person’s Accountability Group” receives any funding from the school, but did not receive a response in time for publication.
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