EXCLUSIVE: Gonzaga speaker talks 'white people,' 'privilege' on 'International Day of Tolerance'

Gonzaga University hosted an “International Day of Tolerance” on Friday, urging students, particularly “white people,” to ask themselves “am I a tolerant person?” and “do I stereotype people?”

Students and staff at the Washington State school started the event by linking arms in the student center, which Gonzaga student body president Athena Sok said at the event was a “show of a united stand for social justice.”

Gonzaga’s Center for Global Engagement, Center for Community Engagement, Unity Multicultural Education Center, Institute for Hate Studies, Office of Mission and Ministry, and Student Body Association jointly sponsored the event. 

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At the event, students were informed that “to fight intolerance, individuals should become aware of their behavior and each one of us should ask: am I a tolerant person? Do I stereotype people? Do I reject those who are different from me? Do I blame my problems on ‘them?’” according to a Gonzaga news release.

Gonzaga defines “intolerance in a society” as “the sum total of the intolerance of its individual members. Bigotry, stereotyping, stigmatizing, insults, and racial jokes are examples of individual expressions of intolerance.”

The website description of the event promotes nonviolent action as a way for people to align themselves with “victims of intolerance and discredit hateful propaganda, violence, and hatred.”

The goal of the event was, “in alignment with the University’s mission, to foster a mature commitment to the dignity of the human person and social justice through awareness and education,” Gonzaga spokeswoman Mary Joan Hahn told Campus Reform.

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Liz Moore, director of Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, an organization which promotes “social, political and economic change through grassroots community organizing, nonviolence training,” according to its mission statement, was one of the keynote speakers at the conference.

Moore talked about the need to resist oppression by “dismantling systems and ideologies of dehumanization and exploitation and shifting power from the elite so we all can thrive.” 

The activist quoted University of Houston professor Brené Brown, who said: “[you] cannot have that conversation [about race] without shame. Because you cannot talk about race without talking about privilege. And when people start talking about privilege, they get paralyzed by shame.”

Moore inserted a “white” before Brown’s “people start talking about privilege.”

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